LHC fines doctors for 'malafide' petition seeking provision of PPE, financial relief

Updated Apr 26 2020

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Court considers govt reply satisfactory; says legal action can be taken against doctors who filed petition. — Dawn/File
Court considers govt reply satisfactory; says legal action can be taken against doctors who filed petition. — Dawn/File

The Lahore high Court on Saturday threw out a petition by doctors in Punjab seeking personal protective equipment (PPE) and financial relief from the government as "malafide" and ordered the petitioners to also cover the costs of litigation.

In its written order, authored by LHC Chief Justice Mohammad Qasim Khan, the court also allowed the Punjab health department and the provincial government to take action against the petitioning doctors for any laws they may have broken and for "bringing a bad name to the institution".

According to the order, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, the petitioners pleaded for the provision of protective equipment for all health professionals combating the spread of the novel coronavirus but records shared with the court showed none of the five petitioners had been assigned duties related to coronavirus.

It added that one of the petitioners was posted for a day to screen virus patients, for which he was given complete protective gear.

"For what has been stated above, the instant writ petition on the face of it appears to be a malafide move and an attempt to get easy social media projection for no solid and sound basis thereof," read the order.

Accepting the Punjab government's stance that PPEs are only provided to doctors treating coronavirus patients, the court noted that several developed countries were also facing a shortage of protective gear in the health crisis that has emerged from the pandemic.

The court said it would be unfair to give a verdict against the Punjab government when it had been taking effective measures to ensure the safety of doctors, adding that doctors as public servants also had a responsibility towards the state.

"If for all good reasons, we keep doctors on the highest pedestal, at the same time we cannot allow all and sundry to play havoc in the society by spreading chaos through unauthentic information or levelling allegations against the state or its institutions," the LHC order read.

The court also noted that the pleas by the doctors, including the financial relief package, were directly related to their terms of service, for which they had other means of redressal in the form of hierarchies in the health department.

Without approaching other modes of redressal granted to them, public servants cannot move the high court with a constitutional petition, the chief justice wrote.