The Supreme Court on Monday refused to stay the day-long nation-wide strike called by the Indian Medical Association to protest against certain reforms initiated by the central government in the medical field.
A bench of justices H L Gokhale and Gyan Sudha Misra, however, hoped the doctors would desist from going ahead with the proposed strike in the interest of the general public.
"We find force in the submission made by senior counsel M N Krishnamani that the strike would cause serious difficulties to the people. We expect that the doctors would not go on strike," the bench observed.
The apex court felt that it was too late to stay the strike as it would be difficult to ensure compliance but issued notice to the Centre on the petitioners' plea that the doctors going on strike would be illegal and unconstitutional.
The apex court also asked senior counsel T S Dhobia, appearing for the Centre, as to why the government failed to take any preventive steps despite the petitioners making a representation to it.
"Why don't you respond? They (petitioners) had earlier made a representation for preventing the strike. You could have acted," the bench observed.
The Centre's counsel merely stated that the strike was impermissible and the government was not in favour of it.
The apex court was hearing a petition by an NGO, People for Better Treatment (PBT), opposing the doctors' strike and seeking it to be declared as illegal.
PBT has submitted to the apex court that the proposed strike violates, apart from the Hippocrates Oath, several other provisions in the Medical Council of India.
The Indian Medical Association had called the strike to protest against the Union government's decision to set up a National Commission for Health and other policy decisions affecting the medical profession.
According to the IMA, the Centre has set up a National Commission for Health and has brought under its umbrella the National Council for Human Resource in Health, Bachelor of Rural Health Care and MCI.
The government has also proposed some amendments in laws related to clinical establishment and private practise which is being resented by doctors.
The People for Better Treatment submitted in its petition that the proposed strike also violates medical principles like those of the "Code of Ethics and Regulations", "Maintaining good medical practise", "Obligation to the sick" and "The patient must not be neglected."
The PBT said the past experiences showed that the doctors' strike has proved disastrous for the poor and the needy patients.
It had urged the apex court to issue a direction to the Centre to hold that any call for "doctors' strike" should be held as unethical, immoral and against the law.
It further wanted disciplinary steps to be initiated against those breaching ethics and law.