Published: 09th October 2020
Supreme Court allows doctors accused of abetting Dr Payal Tadvi’s suicide to resume their course on same campus
The prosecution, the police and Tadvi’s family had raised concerns over the three accused influencing the 250 witnesses whom the Mumbai Police had interrogated for the case
The three doctors accused of abetting the suicide of Dr Payal Tadvi have been allowed by the Supreme Court to return to their campus and resume their post graduate degree course. Dr Payal Tadvi died by suicide on May 22, 2019 allegedly after facing harassment and discrimination by the three accused doctors.
The Supreme Court’s three-judge bench including Justice UU Lalit, Vijay Saran and Ajay Rastogi has allowed Ankita Kailash Khandelwal, Hema Suresh Ahuja and Bhakti Arvind Mehar to return to BYL Nair Hospital. The doctors had been accused of making disparaging comments about Payal’s caste, mocking, humiliating and also denying her opportunities in the hospital. Her family had said that she had also approached the administration with complaints but nothing had happened. The young doctor was the first from the Tadvi Bhil tribal community to become a doctor and had named the three accused in notes found in the aftermath of her death, blaming them for the torture that she was going through.
In its judgement, the Supreme Court said, “If the law presumed an accused to be innocent till his guilt is proven, the appellants as presumably innocent persons, are entitled to all the fundamental rights including the right to liberty guaranteed under Article 21 of the constitution and are entitled to pursue their course of study so long as exercise of said right does not hamper smooth conduct and progress of prosecution.”
The Medical Council of India had suspended the licences of the three accused last year and the Bombay High Court granted bail on the basis of this suspension. When the Court refused to grant a revocation of their suspension, the three accused approached the Supreme Court with a plea to be allowed to resume their studies, especially since they wanted to treat patients in light of the pandemic. They had sought a transfer or migration to another college but the Supreme Court has allowed them to pursue their course in the same campus.
The prosecution, the police and Tadvi’s family had raised concerns over the three accused influencing the 250 witnesses whom the Mumbai Police had interrogated for the case. However, in regard to this the court said, “The majority of witnesses to be examined by the prosecution appear to be in permanent employment of the College and the Hospital. It will be difficult to imagine that three lady doctors who do not otherwise to Mumbai will be able to influence any such witnesses by their presence in the college and hospital.”
The Court placed the following conditions on the accused —the appellants shall not, in any manner, influence or even attempt to influence any witnesses, they shall present themselves on each of the dates that the matter is posted before the trial court, they will not reside in the quarters allocated to the students, ‘however, if the post graduate course requires them to be full time residents in the college and the hospital, then the appellants may do so, the three should avail holidays and vacations and stay away from the hospital and college and if there is an untoward incident then concerned authorities shall immediately report to the police.
“It is made clare that the appellants shall be permitted to pursue their courses of study regardless of the Order of Suspension (college suspension),” the Court concluded. ‘The pendency of prosecution against them will add further penalty in the form of prejudicing their careers,’ the court also observed.
In May this year, on the one-year death anniversary of the doctor, her mother Abeda Tadvi had said, “Whatever happened to Payal should not happen to anyone else. Our lives are ruined now but we have to keep standing until we get justice for her. In a lot of other colleges, things have been even worse, worse than Payal’s case and these days I keep getting calls from students telling me that because we stuck on and are fighting the case, the conditions have improved in their colleges."