“If you cannot protect doctors, close hospitals”: Kerala High Court slams State after person brought for medical examination kills lady doc

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The Kerala High Court on Wednesday came down heavily on the State government and police authorities for their failure to prevent the horrific death of 23-year-old Dr. Vandana Das who was attacked by an injured man who was brought to the hospital by the police for medical examination [Kerala Private Hospitals Association v. Adv. Sabu P Joseph & Ors].

At the outset of the urgent hearing convened today, the division bench of of Justices Devan Ramachandran and Kauser Edappagath expressed its condolences to the loved ones of Dr. Das, but then pointed out the futility of just expressing grief and not taking action.

“What is the point of grief? If you cannot protect doctors, close the hospitals,” the Bench orally remarked.

It then pulled up the police for not anticipating or being prepared for such incidents while presenting the accused, who was supposedly not in a sane state of mind.

“Police could have been more vigilant. You took it very casually. You should have expected something like this. Police should manage and understand the unanticipated. You had the whole responsibility to take care. This is a case where you brought someone from your custody,” the Court said.

The Court then directed the State government to inform it as to whether protocols similar to those that are followed while producing accused persons before Magistrates can be introduced while presenting them before healthcare professionals.

“What is the protocol of the police while presenting to Magistrate. Why is such protocols not done when presented before doctors? You are saying there is a Government Order that doctors should be presented only with the accused person. That is not right. That too she was a girl aged 23. What else can we say. It is a huge tragedy that this misery has befallen a young lady,” the Court orally said.

The division bench called for an urgent hearing after being informed of the brutal murder of the woman doctor by a school teacher, one S Sandeep, at the Kottarakkara Taluk Hospital by the police.

The Government Pleader (GP) told the Court that Sandeep was taken into custody on Tuesday after he supposedly turned violent towards relatives and neighbours. Sandeep himself was injured by the time the police arrived and, therefore, they took Sandeep to the hospital for medical examination and treatment, it was submitted.

The GP further told the bench that further details of the sequence of events would be submitted by tomorrow.

It was while at the hospital that Sandeep stabbed some police officers and hospital staff, including Dr. Das, who were examining him, multiple times. The young house surgeon succumbed to her injuries at a private hospital in Thiruvananthapuram where she was admitted.

The hearing convened today was based on a petition preferred earlier by the Kerala Private Hospitals Association, represented by advocate K Anand, regarding the prices chargeable by hospitals for room rent, post-covid-complications etc. as per orders issued by the government intermittently.

However, over the course of the past two years, the case’s focus had shifted towards attacks against healthcare workers which had increased during the pandemic period

Today, the State government reiterated that it is actively working on amending the Kerala Healthcare Service Persons and Healthcare Service Institutions(Prevention of Violence and Damage to Property) Act, 2012 to ensure that no further attack takes place on doctors and healthcare personnel.

The matter will be taken up again as the first item tomorrow, May 11, by which time the State Police is expected to file a report about the incident and the protocol for producing accused persons for medical examination.

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