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Punjab

Posted at: May 17, 2017, 1:43 AM; last updated: May 17, 2017, 1:43 AM (IST)

Internet bill not paid, docs may lose facility

Evidence in courts via video conferencing mandatory

Gagan K Teja

Tribune News Service

Patiala, May 16

The facility of court evidence via video conferencing for doctors working under the state Department of Medical Education and Research may get blocked. Reason: The department has failed to pay Internet user charges bill of Rs 53,000 for three years to Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL).

This is despite the fact that the state Department of Medical Education and Research has saved an estimated Rs 7 lakh from April 2016 to March 2017 that was to be paid as travelling and daily allowance to doctors for visiting courts as expert medical witnesses.

The bill hasn’t been paid as the department remains undecided. The facility was installed by the Department of Prisons Government Medical College, Patiala, in November 2015, on the orders of the Punjab and Haryana High Court to facilitate court evidence of the doctors. Also, the connection is in the name of Additional Director General Police of that department.

So, the Medical Education Department has refused to pay the bill and has sent it to the Prisons Department.

The discontinuation of the video-conferencing facility may invite contempt proceedings against these departments. The other medical colleges in the state, including Government Medical College at Amritsar and GGS Medical College, Faridkot, are yet to start this facility even after three years of the High Court order.

But more than 480 doctors from different departments in Government Medical College and Rajindra Hospital here have appeared for court evidence in the past year through video conferencing that is being manned by the department of forensic medicine of the medical college.

Court evidence via video conferencing not only saves a lot of money of the state government that has to be paid as TA and DA to the doctors for court visits, but also a lot of time of the doctors that they can devote to their patients.

Daily, doctors in the medical college and even some private hospitals give evidence via video conferencing, covering far-off stations like Gurdaspur, Fazilka, Muktsar, Mansa, Barnala, Bathinda, Budhlada in Punjab and Gurgaon, Karnal and other courts in Haryana and other states.

According to Dr DS Bhullar, general secretary of Punjab State Medical and Dental Teachers Association, the facility was started with a single video conferencing room in the district courts. Now, all courts in a district will have the facility. But unfortunately, the only facility in GMC Patiala is on the verge of closure due to non-payment of dues.

Dr Sujata Sharma, Director Research and Medical Education, Punjab, said she was not aware of the issue. She said she would try to resolve it. Patiala Central Jail Superintendent SS Boparai said he had recently joined and was clueless about the issue. However, he would check with the concerned officials on priority, he said.

Money saved

  • The video conferencing was started at Government Medical College, Patiala, in 2015, to facilitate court evidence of doctors as expert medical witnesses
  • The Department of Medical Education and Research (DMER) has saved at least Rs 7 lakh that was to be paid to doctors for visiting courts 
  • Despite that, the DMER has failed to pay Internet user charges worth Rs 53,000 for the last three years to BSNL
  • Since the facility was installed by the Prisons Department, the DMER is still undecided as to who will foot the bill 

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