HEALTH ISSUES IN INDIA
Electropathy criticised by the Madras High Court
The Madras High Court has harshly criticised practitioners of electropathy as ‘quacks’ and asserted that they represent a violation of the right to health conferred upon all Indians.
A petition was filed by a number of electropathy practitioners over purported interference in their practices by the authorities. As such, the petitioners sought a forbearance against the Tamil Nadu Homoeopathy Medical Council registrar to prevent their practice unless they registered their respective diplomas with the Council itself.
The arguments made as part of the suit were dismissed by Madras High Court Justice Pushpa Sathyanarayana, who found that the claimants did not hold diplomas issued by institutions recognised by the appropriate authorities or by any Act of Parliament. For example, the Justice noted that the Electro Homoeopathy System of Medicine (Recognition) Bill had yet to secure passage through the Indian Parliament and thusly invalidated the petitioner’s diplomas and right to practice.
“The right of every Indian citizen to health and the right to receive proper medical care by qualified medical personnel is violated not only by the existence of quacks, but also by the practitioners with unrecognised medical [degrees],” Justice Sathyanarayana asserted in her decision. “Eventually, the life of the patient is at risk.”
The Justice also took to task the Government of India and state authorities, urging them to keep in check those institutions that do dispense diplomas that lack the requisite authentications and recognitions of the authorities. The Madras High Court ruling also urged students themselves to be vigilant when deciding on a path of medical education.
An article published in The Indian Journal of Medical Ethics in 1996outlined ‘the electropathy scandal’ and explicitly linked it to the practice of ‘quackery’. It also pointed to the students to themselves, writing “The gullible students dreaming of becoming doctors and standing to lose thousands of rupees and many years of training are victims of swindling and misinformation. No one cared to see if these institutions provided necessary facilities and equipment to conduct medical courses. No one cared to see if qualified teachers were available. The government should have looked into the matter and students ought to have taken the issue to the proper authorities.”
The Madras High Court ruling suggests little has changed in the near-two decades since. Indeed, just last year, The Hindu reported of social media outreach efforts to convince prospective students to pursue electropathy courses via WhatsApp. This is despite the Supreme Court handing down in 2018 a verdict that “no institution can confer a diploma or degree in electrohomoeopathy…unless there is a statutory provision permitting the same.”
The judgement of the Madras High Court speaks to a much broader issue surrounding ‘quackery’ in India, which can be considered a veritable epidemic. Instances are reported on a disturbingly frequent basis of individuals booked for practicing medicine without requisite qualifications – representing, as pointed out by Justice Sathyanaryana, a threat to “the life of the patient.”
Tamil Nadu, where the Madras High Court is located, is home to 50,000 quack doctors alone according to the Indian Medical Association (IMA). As such, it is patent that action be taken by the relevant authorities to ensure those pursuing medical education are not sucked into invalid, unrecognised courses – and to curtail the quackery that pervades India’s health system.