New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday permitted three doctors accused of abetting the suicide of Payal Tadvi to re-enter college to pursue their postgraduate studies.
Tadvi, a PG Medical student belonging to Bhil community, had committed suicide on May 22, 2019 after facing harassment by three of her seniors at the Topiwala National Medical College and BYL Nair Hospital in Mumbai.
A bench comprising Justices U.U. Lalit, Vineet Saran and Ajay Rastogi said: "While balancing the competing claims, in our view, the appellants (three doctors) must be allowed to go back to their courses of study, otherwise the pendency of prosecution against them will add further penalty in the form of prejudicing their career. Any such adverse impact will negate their rights under Article 21 of the Constitution."
It has been alleged that three doctors - Ankita Kailash Khandelwal, Hema Suresh Ahuja and Bhakti Arvind Mehare - humiliated and made adverse remarks about the caste of Tadvi, who was a Dalit.
Though the accused were granted bail by the Bombay High Court, they were not allowed inside the BYL Nair Charity Hospital premises, where they were working. The three doctors, who are pursuing MD in Gynaecology and Obstetrics at the Topiwala National Medical College, said they are just accused and even a convict is allowed to pursue academics.
Senior advocate Indira Jaising, appearing for Tadvi's mother, submitted that in the face of suspension by the college, the appellants cannot be allowed to resume their course of study.
She argued that their suspension was based on the report of the anti-ragging committee and that neither there was any challenge to the order of suspension, nor was the said suspension revoked.
The top court noted that if the law presumes an accused to be innocent till his guilt is proved, 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 the exercise of the said right does not hamper the smooth conduct and progress of the prosecution.
"Considering the matter in its entirety and especially when the appellants have to undergo training under the same guide and in the same institution where they were registered, in our considered view, ends of justice would be met if condition no. (iv) as laid down by the high court is relaxed and the appellants are permitted to go back to the college and the hospital to pursue their studies," said the top court.
However, the court also imposed six conditions on the doctors to re-enter the college, which include not influencing any witness and attending the trial court proceedings.
"This order shall come into effect at the beginning of the second term of the academic session 2020-2021 and if such term has already begun, it shall come into effect from October 12, 2020. It is made clear that the appellants shall be permitted to pursue their courses of study regardless of the order of suspension dated May 27, 2019," said the top court.
The court had also sought the view of the Medical Council of India (MCI) for allowing the accused to migrate to any other college/institution. The MCI had submitted that the students who register themselves for postgraduate medical courses have to be under a particular guide. Therefore, migration was not permissible.