[This is a case of "right to privacy vs right to know"--Ganpat]
In a path-breaking order on the Right to Information (RTI), the State Information Commission asked the Public Information Officer (PIO) of JJ Hospital to give all medical reports, including ECG pertaining to his hospitalisation, along those made at the time of discharge within seven days.
The appeal was filed by city activist Shailesh Gandhi seeking medical records of former state forest minister Surupsinh Naik. The order held that larger public interest would be served by disclosure of information rather than creating doubts in the public mind.
The full Bench consisting of Chief Information Commissioner Suresh Joshi, Vilas Patil (Nagpur), Vilas Borge (Aurangabad) and VV Kuwalekar (Pune) argued that the case had contradictory points - right to privacy vis-Ă*-vis right to know, which need to be weighed to arrive at the decision. â€śPeople feel that those in high places or have money power when imprisoned get shifted to hospitals under one pretext or the other and spend their jail term in the hospitals. However, there could be genuine requirement also for the imprisoned person for specialised medical supervisionâ€ť, reads the order.
The Bench said disclosure of such information would remove the veil of secrecy and let people know the actual position and would do justice to everyone - jail and medical authorities. Incidentally, Naik failed to respond when the JJ Hospital authorities asked for his consent to disclose his medical records. The Bench took the legal support of section 8 (j) of the RTI Act, provisions of which contemplates that the information which could be revealed to State Legislature, cannot be denied to the public. When the PIO of the hospital admitted that the pertaining information could be denied to the Legislature, the Bench held that it would be unjustified to deny the same to the activist.
Responding to the order, Pravin Shingare, dean, JJ Hospital said, â€śI have not received any court order so far. Once I receive it, I will read it and act accordingly.â€ť Explaining the hospitalâ€™s stand on the issue, he said, â€śEarlier, I told the commission that unless the patient gives his consent or permission to reveal his personal medical records, we cannot do the same. If a patientâ€™s medical data is asked by a stranger, we cannot give the details as it is classified information,â€ť said Shingare.
After a nine-month fight, Shailesh was happy to get a positive reply though he questioned the earlier stand of the JJ dean giving reasons for rejecting the information, which had to be given by the PIO. â€śIâ€™m against making personal medical records of people made public. But this case was about a convict, spending his jail term in hospital and thus involves larger public interest,â€ť said the activist.
Chief Information Commissioner Suresh Joshi admitted that the complex and sensitive nature was main reason for the delay in issuing the order. â€śWe believe that the records coming in the public domain would do good for everyone, including Naik.â€ť
Yet another door opened with RTI. This act is amazing! And Sailesh Gandhi is congratulated for his decision to expose what happens behind closed hospital doors. Hopefully convicts will feel ill before they do something wrong rather than after.
There is a natural law, species evolve against the adversities.
I wont be surprised if next time the person trying to hide behind the hospitals ensure that the medical records are compelling enough to ensure complete hospitalization.
Indeed RTI is a force which will alter the equilibrium of power in favor of common man but even in the new equilibrium some will find ways to evolve.
In a significant ruling, the Bombay High Court today said the medical records of convicts or persons facing trial who are admitted to government-funded hospitals can be disclosed under the Right to Information Act, irrespective of what regulations under the Indian Medical Council Act say.
A division bench of Justices F I Rebello and R M Sawant gave this ruling while dealing with former Maharashtra forest minister Surupsingh Naik's petition.
Naik had challenged the State Information Commissioner's order to government-run J J Hospital here to disclose his records during his stay there while he was serving a one-month sentence given by the Supreme Court for contempt of court.
Activist Shailesh Gandhi had sought the records.
The court granted partial relief to Naik, remanding the matter back to the Information Commissioner, as he had not been given a hearing before the commissioner ordered the disclosure of his records.
But in the process, the court laid down important points of law. "Normally, records of person convicted/sentenced /remanded to judicial or police custody can be made available if during that period he is admitted to a hospital maintained by state or public authority," the judges observed.
"If the hospital is funded by public money, the legislature is entitled to know if the money is spent for the object it is provided for. So the legislauture, as also the information commission, has right to know whether a person admitted to hospital is eligible for the admission or not," the court said. outlookindia.com | wired