New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled out prosecution of government doctors engaged in private practice under the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA) or any other criminal law.

A bench of Justices Markandeya Katju and Gyan Sudha Mishra in a judgement quashed the FIR registered against two Punjab government doctors by the state government for
allegedly indulging in private practice despite service rules prohibiting it.

The Apex Court said if doctors resort to private practice, they can at the most be proceeded only under service and disciplinary rules but not against the anti-graft law or Section 168 IPC which prohibits government officials from being engaged in unlawful trade.

The FIR was registered on April 9, 2003, against the two doctors Rajinder Singh Chawla and Kanwarjit Singh Kakkar under Sections 13(1)(d),13(2)of the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA) and IPC Section 168 Ludhiana Vigilance on the basis of a complaint by Raman Kumar alleging they were engaged in private practice charging Rs 100 as fees from patients.

"We find no difficulty in accepting the submission and endorsing the view that the demand/receipt of fee while doing private practice by itself cannot be held to be an illegal gratification as the same obviously is the amount charged towards professional remuneration.

"It would be preposterous in our view to hold that if a doctor charges fee for extending medical help and is doing that by way of his professional duty, the same would amount to illegal gratification as that would be even against plain common sense," Justices Gyan Sudha writing the judgement said.