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November 8, 2019

LHC orders doctors to call off strike immediately


November 8, 2019

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Thursday ordered the protesting doctors of the Young Doctors Association (YDA) to call off their strike immediately and return to their duties in out-door emergency wards and in-door departments of all the public sector hospitals in Punjab.

The court also directed the provincial government to address their concerns and refrain from taking any adverse action against young doctors, nurses and paramedics. However, the court made it clear that provincial government or any other authority concerned would be free to take stern action against all persons who continued their strike after 12noon on Friday.

The court ruled that strike of young doctors and paramedics was uncalled for because they were observing strikes against Medical Teaching Institutes (Reforms) Ordinance 2019 which had not been implemented so far. “Drat act has been submitted for legislation before the provincial assembly in which all the authorities and stakeholders will be heard by the committee concerned,” the court said.

Moreover, the young doctors and paramedics are subject to the provision of Punjab Essential Services Maintenance Act (PEMSA) 1958 which prohibits the government servant /employees from absenting themselves from work.

The court said, “Section 7 of PESM Act imposes criminal liability by providing that a person guilty of breach of provisions of this act is punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year and with fine. In the presence of this law the doctors, nurses and paramedics have no legal justification to go on strike. Furthermore, doctors’ strike is violation of the article 5(2) of the Constitution as well as of judgment of Supreme Court in Shakeel Akhtar vs MS Mental Health (2000 SCMR 71). The Article 5(2) of the Constitution says as under, “Obedience to the constitution and law is the inviolable obligation of every citizen wherever he may be and of every other person for the time being in Pakistan.” The court further said Supreme Court judgment is binding on the doctors under Article 189 of the Constitution. Justice Jawad Hassan passed the order on a petition moved by Judicial Activism Panel through advocate Muhammad Azhar Siddique challenging doctors’ strike in all public sector hospitals of the provincial capital.

Justice Hassan reprimanded the provincial health secretary for committing negligence in addressing the issues and concerns of the doctors.

“Why the committee was formed yesterday a day before when the doctors were on strike for more than a month?” Justice Jawad observed while addressing Momin Agha, the provincial health secretary.

The doctors have been on strike since early October which caused serious troubles to the patients coming for treatment to the public sector hospital from far flung areas of the country. The public, especially the poor patients who could not afford treatment in private hospitals, faced problems.

At outset of the hearing, the health secretary told the court that a committee was formed yesterday to address the doctors’ issues. His reply irked the judge who said that such delay on the part of the government was not strange.

“The public is dying unattended—which is not bearable,” the judge remarked. “Why the doctors’ concerns have not been addressed so far,”. During the hearing, the doctors objected to the government’s committee saying that the government did not include any doctor for their representation.

“No doctor was included in the government’s committee, so who will represent the doctors’ community in this entire matter,” said the doctors’ counsel Abid Saqi in the court.

He said if the government heard the objections/reservations of the doctors on the draft Act, they will call off the strike by 12pm and go back to work to earn livelihood and serve the humanity. He argued that the consultation process with the stakeholders was necessary for the better enactment of the law as it will create sociological and economical impact on the citizens.

At this, the court directed the Punjab government to include YDA’s President Dr Qasim Awan and General Secretary Dr Salman Hafeez, their counsel Abid Saqi, and Dr Ali Raza of YDA to the committee. The court also directed the committee to hold consultative workshops on the matter and take all stakeholders including the doctors on board over their demands and concerns.

The court barred the government from taking any step against the protesting doctors. On it, the secretary said that the health department had already issued a show cause notice to some people to which the court said that the doctors should submit their response.

Justice Jawad Hassan also snubbed the doctors over their long strike, observing that the professionals must respect the rules and regulations.

He remarked the Supreme Court had already passed a ruling over such strikes. On it, the doctors assured the court that they would follow the court orders in letter and spirit. The court adjourned the hearing till December 2.