Should Government Doctors be allowed to conduct Private Practice?

Topics Covered in this article

Introduction

The doctors working in the government departments and hospitals get an allowance called Non-Practicing Allowance (NPA). This allowance is paid by the government for not practicing anywhere except the place they are posted. The doctors get an incentive of 25% of the basic pay in the lieu of private practice. Any breach of this rule is dealt with by suspension or the doctor can be asked to continue this job without getting paid until the inquiry commission gives a clean chit.

The tendency adopted by doctors to resort to private practice is getting common. The personal interest of doctors clashes with the public interest. A government doctor is accountable to the public for his services. Various committees have worked on this issue and have stressed that it should be banned. The Bhore committee in 1946, the Kher committee in 1948, the Mudaliar committee in 1961, and the Verma committee in 1975 recommended banning the private practice of government doctors.

Whether the doctors working in government departments should engage in private practice has been a question for over 50 years. The honorable High Courts and the Supreme Court through various cases have set principles which later in time were changed according to the demanding situations.

Punishment

In the year 2011, two doctors from Punjab were booked under the section 13 1(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act and section 168 of the Indian Penal Code on the basis of a complaint filed by a person who alleged that that both the doctors were charging Rupees 100 as fees from patients in an evening private clinic. A two-judge bench consisting of Justice Markandey Katju and Justice Gyan Sudha Misra at the Supreme Court, defied the ban on private practice and charging of consultation fee from patients in a private clinic could neither fall under the scope of indulging in trade nor under the anti-corruption law, at the most, a departmental action can be taken against them. It would fall under the ambit of misconduct to be dealt with under service rules, but would not constitute a criminal offense.

Also Read  Misuse of Ninth Schedule of Constitution of India

Any anti-corruption can be taken against such doctor when he asks for a favor in kind or cash from the patient in performing his duties while working at a post set by the government, no action lies for any practice after usual working hours on that post. Further, the bench said that charging a fee while doing private practice cannot be held to be illegal gratification as the same obviously is the amount charged towards professional remuneration. But in any case, a doctor charged fees for extending medical help and in doing that by the way of his professional duty, the same would amount to illegal gratification.

Case Laws

But with the changing time, States in India are allowing the doctors for private practice. In the case of P.K.Gangadharan Nair v. State of Kerala[1], the petitioner contended that if the proposed ban is imposed, then it violates the article 21 of the Constitution of India as many patients don’t get a right to get medical treatment from a doctor of his choice. Government by making such bans clearly violates this provision.

In 2016, in the case of V. Aarthi v. State of Tamil Nadu[2], the petition for the ban of private practice was banned by the Madras High Court. The State of Madhya Pradesh also gave allowance to private practices by doctors after the usual office hours.

There is no law in India that prescribes for whether government doctors should resort to private practices or not. Some states in India gave a green chit to it and some, on the other hand, are still against it. Doing private practice does not resort to the criminal offense but it is dealt with under violation of service rules.

Also read Infringement of Medical Data Privacy– A Threat to Human Rights


[1] WP. (C) No. 26377 of 2009(S)

[2] CWP No. 581 of 2017

Also Read  Grama Nyayalayas Act, 2008

Leave a comment