The Madras High Court on Friday directed the authorities concerned not to engage post-graduate medical students and the students undergoing compulsory rotatory residential internship (CRRI) in medical colleges beyond eight hours of duty. The first bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice P D Audikesdavalu gave a direction to this effect while disposing of a public interest writ petition from Dr G R Ravindranath, general secretary of the Doctors Association for Social Equality.
The petitioner sought the strict implementation of a July 2015 notification of the Directorate of Medical Education to provide eight hours of duty per day on a shift basis to PG medical students and under-graduate CRRI candidates at State-run hospitals and medical colleges. It was true that the doctors have engaged beyond eight hours of duty due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But this practice is no longer prevalent since February this year and there has been no violation.
Moreover, committees have been constituted to check this and any individual can make use of this in case of the person being subjected to more work, Government Pleader P Muthukumar told the bench. Satisfied, the bench said there is no doubt that the provisions of the notification may have been breached during the emergency situation that arose both during the first surge of the pandemic and the deadlier second wave. However, the official respondents say that from or about February, there has been no violation and committees had been set up for individual complaints to be lodged before such committees in case a particular student has had to devote more than eight hours per day.
“In the light of the above, the petition appears to have served its purpose. Merely because government hospitals and medical colleges may not be appropriately or adequately staffed, will not entail that post-graduate medical students or under-graduate interns would be subjected to additional hours” and the situation should be monitored on a continuous basis, the bench said and disposed of the PIL.