Private Practice Ban: NPA Only for Doctors Unfair

Will Mufti Government undo the wrongs of earlier popular governments? Present health minister has shown some willingnessto correct the Health Sector. Will he get support from public and his own colleagues? Will he be able to carry his welfare  intentions to the people working with him in a humble manner ?

When Governor’s rule was imposed in J&K in 1996 doctors were banned from doing private practice (31-5-1986)Awrit petition (668/1986) was filed in J&K HC against the ban but the same was dismissed by a Division Bench on 17-10-1986 since the writ was well contested by the then government. But after the elected govern-ment returned to power it issued SRO No. 42 on 23-1-1987 allowing government doctors (inspite of being reg-ular government servants) to do private practice. 

The government order allowing private practice was challenged in court. SRO 42 of 23-1-1987 was  questioned through a PIL by one Sukesh Chander Khajuria but on 14 February, 1994 the PIL was dismissed by J&K High Court  observing, “Whether private medical practice should be allowed to doctors in government service or not is a policy matter. Policy decisions have to be taken by the Executive and not by Courts. Courts can only indicate the legal position. The legal position is that the State has power to ban private practice as well to allow it. When it will allow and when it will ban it is for the Government to decide and not for the Courts. In view of the above the writ petition lacks merit and is hereby dismissed but without any order as to costs. ” 

On 20th July 1995  there was a powerful RDX blast in Purani Mandi Jammu. 21 persons died on the spot and around 47 were injured. The then State Administrative Council (under the Governor’s Rule/President’s Rule) decided on 21st July 1995 to again ban private practice by government doctors in the light of allegations against some government doctors having committed dereliction of duty  on the day of blast. SRO-196 was issued on 4th August 1995 once again banning the private practice. 

A popular government again returned in 1996 . It was on 14 January 1997 that  a local English daily reported the then Health Minister Dr  Mustafa Kamal having said  ” I have reports  that a patient in Srinagar Medical College  was given  three years waiting  for operation” adding ” all this is being done  to exert pressure on the government”. The then health minister did say that there was no proposal to lift the ban on private practice by government doctors. But just after three months in the Cabinet meeting held on 14 April 1998 it was decided to again lift the ban on private practice by government doctors. Private practice by government doctors was put under question in view the J&K HC order of 25th November 2011 passed on a public interest writ petition filed by Vichar Kranti Manch International. But Government has not been able till date take corrective measures on ground.

If permission is granted to doctors to do private prac-tice in order to increase income, then the private work should also be allowed to the low paid government employees (peons and clerks).It will certainly make them meet the needs of education and health care of their children.

No, doubt government has authority to make/modify service rules but no government in a democratic  country is expected to ignore the basic principles and codes that are must for one who has to handle the common re-sources / provisions of the State. So, the question that needs be addressed to is that —-Is private practice, as is/ was allowed to doctors in government hospitals and government medical colleges in J&K and some other Indian States , in the interest of social cause or it is simply for allowing doctors to increase their income? 

If it is to increase income, then the private work shouldalso be allowed (before and after office hours) to the low paid government employees (peons and clerks). This will surely help  them meet the needs of education and health care of their children in a better way. 

If it is assessed that pay scales /wages of government doctors  are  less and the public exchequer can afford more, let higher salary be paid to government doctors, but private enterprise or NPA do not appear logical un-der  present circumstances.  The post graduate doctors and those in the medical colleges if justified should be given special grades even no way less (even more) than superior bureaucrats. 

In cities / towns many private hospitals, retired doctors and un employed doctors / qualified Vaidraj  are availa-ble and the provision of private practice has not been that judiciously used these days. No doubt, in case it is felt that in remote / distant / rural areas still there is a need to allow government doctors to see patients against monetary considerations before / after office hours  then there, on case to case basis , government doctors  could be permitted to do private practice and the payment received be named as honourarium and not fee . But no allowance like NPA in any case only to government doctors.

Daya Sagar is a seniorcolumnist and a social activist. He and can be reached at [email protected]

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