Chennai: The Madras High Court recently held that AYUSH doctors are not entitled to perform sonographies and other pre-natal diagnostic tests on pregnant women, unless they are qualified to do so under the Pre-Conception & Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PNDT) Act and Rules [Tamil Nadu Ayush Sonologist Association v. Union of India].
Justice SM Subramaniam said that any doctor, whether practcing allopathic medicine or any other stream of medicine, can perform such diagnostic tests only if they are qualified doctors within the meaning of the Central PNDT Act.
The Court dismissed three writ petitions filed by the Tamil Nadu Association of AYUSH Sonologists that includes medical professionals practicing Homeopathy, Unani, Ayurveda, and other alternate forms of medicine.
The petitioners had claimed that they held recognised and valid degrees from recognised institutions in their respective streams of medicine. They said diagnostic procedures were part of their prescribed syllabus for Homeopathy, Ayurveda and other alternate medicine courses.
Further, they claimed to have undergone certificate courses in ultrasonogram and were fully qualified to carry out diagnostic procedures and ultrasonogram techniques on pregnant women as long as they did not undertake sex selection before or after conception, which is prohibited under the PNDT Act.
The Central Council of Indian Medicine (CCIM), a respondent in the case, supported the petitioner Association’s stand and said there was no impediment for allowing them to perform the said diagnostic procedures.
The Tamil Nadu government, however, argued that doctors must possess qualifications as stipulated under the provisions of the PNDT Act since that was a Central Act.
The High Court agreed with the State’s submission, noting that the PNDT Rules of 2014 prescribed a specialised six-month ‘level one course on Fundamentals in Abdomino Pelvic Ultrasonography’ for all MBBS doctors. Therefore, the members of the petitioner Association too must possess the qualification under the said Central Rules, the Court said.
“Mere prescription of general subject in the course of Ultra Sonogram would be insufficient to satisfy the minimum requirements as contemplated under the Special Act,” the order stated.
The Court further said that pre-natal diagnostic procedures were special procedures or treatments, and therefore, “the special qualifications prescribed under the Central Act and the Rules must be scrupulously followed by the competent authorities.”
“The contention of the 9th respondent (CCIM) that as per the prescribed syllabus of BAMS, BUMS, & BSMS of erstwhile CCIM now known as NCISM, the Basic knowledge of ECG, USG, X-Ray, CT Scan, MRI are taught in the colleges would be insufficient and cannot be construed as prescribed qualification within the meaning of the Special Central Enactment. Merely prescribing syllabus for diagnostic procedure or Ultra Sonogram/Ultrasound techniques cannot be considered as a prescribed qualification within the meaning of the Central Act and Rules,” the Court said.
Senior Advocate Nalini Chidambaram appeared for the petitioner Association.
Senior Panel Counsel SS Pajani Radja appeared for the respondent Government of India and the Union Ministry of AYUSH.
Additional Government Pleader T Arunkumar appeared for the respondents State government, State Health Department and TN Homeopathy Medical Council.
Advocate Vellaya Raj appeared for the respondent CCIM.