Form F needs to be filled by doctors, it is not clerical job: High Court
Aurangabad: Referring to the Supreme Court judgment which had clarified that filling up Form 'F' is not a clerical job and needs to be filled by a medical practitioner, the Aurangabad bench of Bombay High Court has recently dismissed a plea by a gynaecologist, booked around a decade ago for incomplete F forms.
The authorities during a surprise visit at the sonography centre-cum-hospital of the doctor, had seized eight such incomplete 'F' forms and following that the doctor had been booked and her sonography machine was also seized.
Although the doctor had challenged the initiation of case proceedings against her before the High Court, the bench comprising of Justice Surendra Tavade turned down the plea and was quoted by TOI saying that "Said order is legal, valid and proper."
It is mandatory for medical professionals to fill up the F form. Taking rigorous steps towards stopping female feticide as well as decreasing the roaring gender gap in India, form F was introduced under the Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act [PCPNDT Act], 1994. Such a form was filled in as an undertaking that the parents of the unborn child are not carrying out a sinography or an ultrasound with the intent of knowing the gender of the fetus.
The form demanded details not just of the parents but also of the diagnostic centre where the process is being carried out. The name, address and registration number of the centre are to be filled in accompanied by the name, age and address of the patient and her husband.
All these details need to be filled in with due diligence as any discrepancy found can lead to an escape by the guilty in case a gender determination process has been carried out.
The PCPNDT Act was formulated with the idea of punishing all those trying to engage in gender based feticide and Form F acts as a key to such convictions. Therefore any vagueness in this form can prove to be any doctor's Achille's heel as such vagueness in the form ultimately defeats the whole purpose of the PCPNDT Act.
In fact, the Apex Court had also stressed the importance of filling up the 'F' form back in 2019. Medical Dialogues had earlier reported that the Apex Court while dismissing a plea by the Federation of Obstetrics and Gynaecological Societies of India (FOGSI) had noted that the non-maintenance/Incomplete Form F under the PC-PNDT Act would continue to attract strong penal provisions including suspension and criminal cases.
Refusing to water down the relevant provisions of the Act, the Apex Court bench had back then observed, "Complete contents of Form 'F' are held to be mandatory."
The plea by FOGSI had highlighted the issues and problems affecting the practice of obstetricians and gynaecologists across the country under the Preconception and Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994.
However, opining that proper record-keeping is required by the doctors in many other Acts as well, the Apex Court had held, "In case the indications and the information are not furnished as provided in the Form 'F' it would amount that condition precedent to undertake the test/procedure is absent. There is no other barometer except Form 'F' to find out why the diagnostic test/procedure was performed. In case such important information beside others is kept vague or missing from the Form, it would defeat the very purpose of the Act and the safeguards provided thereunder and it would become impossible to check violation of provisions of the Act. It is not the clerical job to fill the form, it is a condition precedent for undertaking test/procedure."
Back in 2011, during a surprise visit at the Beed-based gynaecologist's sonography centre-cum-hospital, the authorities had seized eight incomplete F forms and following that, on the basis of a complaint by naib tehsildar, the doctor was booked under relevant sections of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, or PCPNDT Act. Apart from this, the sonography machine from the hospital of the doctor was also seized.
Following this, the Parli-Vaijnath-based judicial magistrate first class had initiated proceedings in the doctor's case. Consequently, seeking quashing of the process, the gynaecologist had approached the HC back in 2012.
The Additional public prosecutor R P Gaur pointed out that in light of the services that the medical profession renders, it is imperative to maintain up to the mark medical records. Prosecutor further went on to quote the Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations, 2002 which deems a fault in maintenance of medical records as misconduct.
The prosecution said, "In case the information kept vague, the violation of the act would be blatant and unchecked and an offence can never be detected," quotes FPJ
Advocate SG Chapalgaonkar, the counsel for the doctor, had contended in the petition that the complaint hasn't been filed by an authorized person. As per the amendment, now the civil surgeon can authorize any surgeon for carrying out inspection and filing a complaint.
Observing that the Civil surgeon had the authority to file the complaint, the HC bench dismissed the contention and noted,
"The prosecution can lead evidence to prove the charge leveled against the applicant. Therefore, the trial court has not considered the said aspect. Admittedly, the prosecution is required to lead evidence before the charge. If it is found that the naib tehsildar had no authority to initiate action, then the applicant can be discharged. Said aspect is dependent upon the evidence to be led on record. Therefore, I do not find any merit in the contentions that the complaint was not filed by the authorised person."
TOI adds that the HC also cited the Apex Court order which had clarified that the filing up of the 'F' form is not clerical but needs to be done by a medical practitioner. Thus, dismissing the plea by the gynaecologist, the HC bench noted,
"It appears from the impugned order that the trial court has considered the averments made in the complaint and the documents produced on record. Therefore, it can be said that the trial court had applied its mind before issuance of process. Said order is legal, valid and proper."
The HC has, however, granted interim relief to Dhakne from arrest till October 26 to allow her to approach the Supreme Court, adds FPJ