Dr Prashant Natekar, head of the Department of Anatomy at the Goa Medical College, who was shunted to the Public Health Services Department in 2017 based on complaints of harassment made by a lady associate professor in the same department, was reinstated by the High Court of Bombay at Goa.
All proceedings against him based on complaints by the lady doctor have been quashed. Accordingly, the June 19, 2017 order of the government shunting him to the Health Services, where he was posted in the library without any work, was set aside.
The two complaints by the lady doctor dated April 7, 2008 and July 18, 2016 “shall not be inquired into further, either by the government or the college” the judgement dated August 5 stated.
However, the court held that the disciplinary authority will be entitled to proceed against Dr Natekar on the basis of a complaint dated November 17, 2016 lodged by Visvonatha Naique, but set a time frame of six months for completion of the process.
The High Court bench comprising Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice M S Sonak also restrained the Health Minister from getting involved in this process.
This stricture against the Health Minister follows an internal note issued by him on June 9, 2017 which stated, “The matter is very serious. Dr Natekar to be kept without posting till the vigilance inquiry is over”.
A second note by the minister on the same day stated, “The head of the institution along with the doctor should be punished. I believe if action wasn’t taken by the Head of the Institution, it was a total lapse on the part of the Institution of the Goa Medical College.”
The judgement noted that it became clear that following these notes that Dr Natekar was shunted to the Health Services.
Referring to the notes made by the minister, the High Court noted, “even before any inquiry was initiated, the minister expressed his mind that punishment is called for.” At another point, the court noted, “even before an inquiry was conducted, the petitioner (Dr Natekar) incurred the wrath of the minister”.
The first complaint was lodged against Dr Natekar on April 7, 2008 by the lady doctor in which professional harassment was alleged. On November 12, 2008 a second complaint was lodged alleging sexual harassment at the workplace.
An inquiry was held and the committee report stated that the allegations of sexual harassment cannot be verified as the same had occurred three years ago. Seven years later the lady doctor on July 18, 2016 filed another complaint alleging harassment at the workplace.
Then on November 21, 2016, Naique logged his complaint alleging corrupt behaviour and undisciplinary conduct and harassment of the staff and students. On January 9, 2017 a second inquiry was conducted.
In view of both these complaints, the public health department was directed by the government to conduct a preliminary inquiry.
The file went from the department to the minister who ordered that Dr Natekar be punished and kept without posting. Accordingly, Dr Natekar was shunted to the Health Services department on June 19, 2017.
It was only on July 27, 2020, after a lapse of three years that the government constituted a committee of four members to inquire into the two complaints.
On the recommendations of the committee the government on July 15, 2021 called for a vigilance probe to be conducted, which became the basis for the petition in the High Court.