Orissa High Court Issues Notice to State Government on Doctors' Private Practice

Orissa High Court serves notice to state government on petition urging ban on doctors' private practice. Case filed by activist Narayan Chandra Jena.

The Orissa High Court has taken a significant step towards ensuring the quality of healthcare in government hospitals by issuing notice to the state government on a petition seeking the formation of a committee. This committee would oversee that doctors employed in government hospitals refrain from practicing privately. The division bench, comprising Chief Justice Chakradhari Sharan Singh and Justice Sibo Sankar Mishra, acted on a petition filed by Cuttack-based social activist Narayan Chandra Jena.

Jena's petition, filed in the nature of a Public Interest Litigation (PIL), urged the state government to enforce a prohibition on private practice by government doctors and provide them with non-practicing allowances. The bench, which named the Secretary of Health and Family Welfare and the Director of Health Services as respondents, has scheduled the petition for hearing after four weeks and has requested a response from the government by then.

The genesis of Jena's petition dates back to October 19, 2023, when he initially filed it, citing concerns that the practice of government doctors engaging in private practice was adversely affecting the quality of healthcare services provided in state-owned facilities. However, the petition faced dismissal by a division bench comprising Acting Chief Justice BR Sarangi and Justice MS Raman on November 7, 2023, on grounds of "non-prosecution".

Subsequently, Jena pursued the restoration of the PIL, and his efforts bore fruit when the same division bench acceded to his request on January 16, 2024.

The Orissa High Court's decision to issue notice to the state government underscores the judiciary's commitment to safeguarding the interests of citizens and ensuring access to quality healthcare. By addressing the issue of government doctors' involvement in private practice, the court aims to enhance the efficiency and integrity of public healthcare services.

The practice of government doctors engaging in private practice has long been a contentious issue, with concerns raised about its impact on the availability and quality of medical services in government hospitals. Critics argue that it not only diverts doctors' attention away from their primary duties but also undermines public confidence in the healthcare system.

In response to Jena's petition, the High Court has initiated a crucial dialogue that could lead to systemic reforms in the healthcare sector. By seeking the formation of a committee and advocating for measures to curb private practice among government doctors, the court is taking proactive steps to address longstanding challenges and improve healthcare delivery in the state.