LAHORE: The deadlock between the doctors and the Punjab government took a new turn on Saturday as young doctors stuck to their guns and maintained that the general council of the Young Doctors Association (YDA) would decide whether to comply with the Lahore High Court order about ending their strike and resuming work from Monday.
Soon after a single bench of the LHC concluded Saturday’s hearing on the issue and ordered the YDA representatives to resume work in all departments including OPDs, YDA President Hamid Butt and General Secretary Nasir Abbas told reporters that a general council meeting on Sunday will decide about the implementation of the judicial order.
Justice Ijazul Ahsan on Saturday suspended all actions of the Punjab government against young doctors including termination, suspension and show-causes notices, issued to the YDA under the Punjab Efficiency, Discipline and Accountability Act (PEEDA) and directed doctors to resume work in all departments of hospitals by Monday.
Advocate Azhar Siddique, pleading casesagainst the YDA, also announced filing a contempt of court petition on Monday if the young doctors failed to obey the LHC order. He said statements of YDA leaders were tantamount to contempt of court.
Earlier, during the court proceedings, Advocate Raja Zulqarnain told the court that the government continued to harass the young doctors despite the court warning to the government on Friday against any undue harassment.
He alleged that after Friday’s proceedings, the government issued show-cause notices to striking doctors and also terminated many. He said the act of the government was tantamount to contempt of court.
However, Additional Advocate General Faisal Zaman Khan refuted the allegations and informed the court that the show-cause notices and termination letters were issued to the doctors on Friday morning before the court directions.
He argued that all actions taken by the government were lawful and under PEEDA Act. He said after the court’s restraining order, Punjab health secretary had issued a notification mentioning the LHC order and forwarded the same to home secretary, CCPO Lahore and other department concerned.
The judge, however, asked the YDA counsel to file a separate petition against the alleged harassment and the court will pass an order if the government found guilty. Regarding the murder case, Advocate Zulqarnain argued that according to the Punjab Healthcare Commission Act, doctors could not be booked under Section 302 of the PPC. He said in case of a patient’s death, the matter had to be referred to the Healthcare Commission for investigation before registration of any case. The case could only be lodged under Section 322 of the PPC. He asked the court to quash the murder case registered against the doctors of Mayo Hospital.
Countering this argument, AAG Faisal Zaman told the court that Section 322 of the PPC applied in case a patient dies during medical treatment, but in the instant case the baby patient lost his life due to denial of medical treatment. He pointed out that the minor boy Fahad was laid to rest without autopsy and the police were going for exhumation of the body so that the cause of death could be determined.
On request of victim’s father’s counsel, the judge ordered the government to constitute a medical board to supervise the exhumation process and post-mortem. The court also directed the investigating officer to submit challan by Monday against the doctors involved in the murder case.
During the course of arguments, Law Officer Zaman asked young doctors would they end their strike completely if the four arrested doctors were released. The YDA president and general secretary remained reluctant to give any assurance to this effect even on the query of the court.
Zaman further argued that the matter related to the “service structure” for the young doctors was sub judice before the Supreme Court, therefore, the LHC should delay its directions on the issue. He said a committee made by the SC had already submitted its proposed service structure.
On apprehensions frequently expressed by the young doctors, Justice Ijazul Ahsan remarked that the court would not allow any illegal action. “The courts are independent and this time we will make a new history,” he said. The judge further observed that the demand of the young doctors for service structure was not illogical.
On court’s permission, YDA President Hamid Butt also spoke and narrated the alleged illegal actions taken by the government against the striking doctors.
The judge adjourned further hearing till Monday (July 9) and directed AAG Zaman to come up with arguments on the point whether murder case under Section 302 of PPC against doctors could be lodged. He asked YDA’s counsel to file a separate petition for cancellation of the murder FIR.
Justice Ahsan further directed the Punjab government made committee to submit its recommendations on the issue within two weeks. He asked the AAG to ensure submission of the minutes of the meetings to be held by the said committee and also directed to include young doctors’ representatives in the committee.The court will resume hearing on July 13.