The Delhi High Court today took a serious view of the conduct of an Indian doctor, who was barred from practising in the US for sexual offences against women, for coming here and setting up a clinic. “You avoid a 25-year imprisonment by taking a plea bargain and you come here and start practising. It is not acceptable at all,” a bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar said. “If he had done this (offence) in India and then gone back to US, he would have been in jail there,” it said. The court was hearing a PIL initiated by it after coming across a news report about the doctor who, after being barred from practising by a US court in 2011, was now treating patients in the National Capital Region (NCR).
As per the report, a court in Georgia in the US had asked the doctor to surrender all US medical licences, leave the country and “not practice medicine in any form within the United States or any other country”. The report had also said that the medical practitioner had pleaded guilty to three counts of aggravated sexual battery, for unwarranted medical examination on women patients, a crime that carries a mandatory 25 years in prison in the US.
The court said women in the US had the courage to report his conduct, but here not many would complain when there is an offence of sexual violence or of such nature. “You (the doctor) are playing with the lives of people. We are rooting for the rights of the people,” the court told senior advocate Amit Sibal, who represented the doctor. The bench noted that the doctor, who was present in court today, was “desperate” to avoid the prison sentence of 25 years and hence opted for plea bargaining, a concept under which the quantum of sentence is negotiated after guilt is conceded by the accused.
It also observed that the doctor had started his practice here without informing the Medical Council of India (MCI) about his conviction.
The central government, during the hearing, said the US court had barred the doctor from practising anywhere else in the world in future, but he had started treating patients in Delhi and Gurgaon. Sibal, however, said the US court’s order was not clear on whether the prohibition was forever or just for a probation period of 36 months. In this connection, he has also sought a written legal opinion from an American lawyer associated with the case in which the doctor was convicted.
The bench did not agree with the submission regarding the probation period, saying in the instant case the prohibition did not appear to be for just 36 months. It also noted the claim made on behalf of the doctor that as his license expired on May 7 and his plea for renewal was pending before the MCI, he has not been practising anywhere in India since then. The court also asked if the doctor, an American citizen, can return to the US, to which his lawyer said legal opinion on this issue has also been sought from the American lawyer.
Sibal also said that the MCI, which has the statutory powers to suspend, revoke and renew the license of a medical practitioner, is looking into the whole matter. He said all the documents related to the doctor’s conviction would be placed before the MCI where the first hearing was on May 18 and the next slated for June 7. The bench, on the other hand, said it has made MCI a party in the matter as it wanted the council to frame guidelines.
It also directed that the records of the doctor’s conviction, plea bargaining and settlements entered into with the victims be placed before the court before July 19, the next date of hearing. The high court had earlier observed that doctors indicted for sexual misconduct, deserved to be caught and barred from practising.