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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

'Doc registered in one state can't work in another'

MUMBAI: A medical practitioner registered in one state cannot practise in another state unless his or her name finds place in the central

register, the Supreme Court has held.

The court has also noted that an unregistered medical practitioner and one without a recognised degree or qualification cannot place the prefix "Dr" before his/her name or claim to be a doctor. The two observations form the crux of a recent apex court ruling upholding a 2007 Bombay high court judgment.

The matter had reached the SC after a bench headed by Justice B H Marlapalle banned ayurvedic and unani practitioners registered under the Bihar Development of Ayurvedic and Unani Systems of Medicine Act from practising in rural Maharashtra. The HC held that they had no recognised degree or qualification. It also banned those with a degree or diploma in electropathy or homoeo-electrotherapy to portray themselves as doctors or use the "Dr" prefix.

The SC ruling means that not everyone practising medicine can claim to be a doctor or use the "Dr" prefix. The judgment also makes it clear that unless a medical practitioner in Indian medicine is registered in the central register under the Indian Medicine Central Council Act, she/he cannot practise in the country.

The SC dismissed the claim of a number of practitioners of ayurveda and unani that once they were registered in a particular state, they had the right to practise anywhere in the country.

The apex court held that the restriction placed by law was a "reasonable restriction'' and such practitioners could not claim that their fundamental right under Article 19(g) to practise their profession was being violated. "Reasonable restriction can always be put on on the exercise of right under Article 19(g),'' the court said.

The SC also held that "what constitutes proper education and requisite expertise for a practitioner in Indian medicine must be left to the proper authority having requisite knowledge in the subject''.

Many of those affected were ayurveda practitioners who possessed sufficient knowledge and skill but held no formal degree, diploma or certificate from a recognised institution.

Nikhil Datar a gynaecologist, told TOI, "The problem is that we have only five recognised schools of medical streams-allopathy, homoeopathy, ayurveda, unani and siddha. Anything other than that is not a recognised stream. You can't be called a medical graduate or doctor in the areas of homoeo-electrotherapy, electropathy, acupuncture etc."

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