WhatsApp-ing of childbirth lands gynaecologists in trouble

KPM Basheer Kochi | Updated on September 24, 2014

3 doctors booked under tough IT Act Sections

In perhaps the first such case in India, two gynaecologists and an anaesthetist who allegedly captured on the mobile phone their patient’s childbirth in the operation theatre and uploaded the video clipping on WhatsApp, are facing immediate arrest.

The three Government doctors, who have been booked under the Information Technology Act as well as the Indian Penal Code, have already been suspended from service.

The doctors at the taluk hospital at Payyannur in Kannur district on July 18 caught on a mobile phone the childbirth of a woman on whom they had performed a Ceasarian-section surgery. The woman gave birth to triplets.

The doctors uploaded the childbirth video on the WhatsApp messaging system, which later went viral. Under the IT Act this is a grievous offence. Two private TV channels aired the video clipping, causing deep embarrassment to the woman and her family. The family members staged a protest in front of the taluk hospital over the weekend and also complained to the Government authorities and the police.

The Payyannur police registered a case under Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code (for outraging the modesty of a woman) and under Sections 66E (for violation of privacy) and 67 (for publishing obscene information) of the IT Act.

The three doctors, if convicted, face punishment of several years in jail as the IT Act is very tough on offenders. Section 66 E of the IT Act proposes a punishment of up to three years in jail (for “intentionally or knowingly captures, publishes or transmits image of a private area of any person without his or her consent, under circumstances violating the privacy of that person.”)

However, the punishment proposed for an offence under Section 67 (for “publishing of information which is obscene in electronic form”) is even harder. The Section says: “Whoever publishes or transmits or causes to be published in electronic form any material which is lascivious or appeals to the prurient interest or if its effect is such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it, shall be punished, on first conviction, with imprisonment of either description of a term which may extend to five years and with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees and, in the event of a second or subsequent conviction, with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years and also with fine which may extend to two lakh rupees.”

On Tuesday, the Kerala High Court rejected a petition by the doctors seeking a court directive to the police not to arrest them until the disposal of their bail petition, which will come up for hearing on September 30. The doctors stated that they had videoed the woman’s childbirth because the birth of triplets was very rare. Justice V.K. Mohanan, while rejecting the petition, orally observed that granting the doctors’ petition would send a wrong message to the public.

The event has aroused intense interest within the medical community and is being debated on the social media.

Published on September 24, 2014

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