The Kerala High Court on Monday sought the state government’s stand on a PIL seeking Rs one crore compensation to the family of the young doctor who was stabbed to death in a taluk hospital by a patient earlier this month.
A bench of Acting Chief Justice S V Bhatti and Justice Basant Balaji, while asking the state government to file its response to the plea, tagged the matter with another similar petition before the court regarding safety of healthcare workers.
In the PIL by an advocate — Manoj Rajagopal — whose mother is a retired civil surgeon grade-1 and a consultant surgeon, it has been contended that the government announced lakhs of rupees as compensation to the family of the victims in the recent boat accident in Malappuram and the train arson incident in Kozhikode districts of the state. However, no such announcements were made with regard to the brutal killing of Dr Vandana Das by G Sandeep, a school teacher by profession, who was taken to the taluk hospital in Kollam district of the state for treatment of an injury to his leg, the petitioner has claimed.
Sandeep had stabbed the doctor several times, leading to her death, despite the presence of the police officers who accompanied him to the hospital, prompting the high court to remark that her death was an outcome of “systemic failure”.
Besides the compensation of Rs one crore for the family of Dr Das, the PIL, filed through advocate C Rajendran, has also sought monitoring of the probe in the murder case by the high court.
It has also sought guidelines by the court for providing security to doctors, nurses and other staff in hospitals across the state.
In the earlier matter regarding safety of healthcare workers in the state, the high court on May 11 had slammed the state government and the police for failing to protect the young doctor and said it “cannot be brushed aside as an isolated incident”.
It had directed state police chief DGP Anil Kant to “ensure that security is provided to all hospitals in the manner as is legally possible so as to prevent any further incidents of attack”.
The court had also directed that sufficient protocols be created with regard to the manner in which persons in custody — whether they are accused or others — are to be presented in hospitals or before doctors or healthcare professionals, as part of the criminal justice system or otherwise.
Subsequently, on May 17, the Kerala government approved an ordinance that provides for stringent punishment, including imprisonment of up to seven years and a maximum fine of Rs 5 lakh for those found guilty of causing grievous bodily harm to doctors, medical students, and others working in the health services sector in the state.
The ordinance also extended the protection under the Kerala Healthcare Service Workers and Healthcare Service Institutions (Prevention of Violence and Damage to Property) Act of 2012 to paramedical students, security guards, managerial staff, ambulance drivers, helpers who are posted and working in health care institutions.
The health workers who would be notified in the official government gazette from time to time would also be protected under the Act, the government ordinance said.
Dr Das, a native of Kaduthuruthy area of Kottayam district and the only child of her parents, was a house surgeon at Azeezia Medical College Hospital and was working at the Kottarakkara taluk hospital in Kollam district as part of her training.
Sandeep, who was brought there by the police for medical treatment during the wee hours of May 10, went on a sudden attacking spree using a pair of surgical scissors kept in the room where his leg injury was being dressed.
He initially attacked the police officers and a private person who had accompanied him to the hospital and then turned on the young doctor who could not escape to safety. She was repeatedly stabbed and later succumbed to her injuries in a private hospital in Thiruvananthapuram.