Crooks clog the courts, denying the honest the time to have matters heard
Friday afternoon. It was getting late in the Thane district court. The next day was a holiday. The opposing advocate had not turned up. We asked the judge to consider our situation, coming all the way from Mumbai and not getting ahead.
His Honour was sympathetic but asked us to be patient, saying that he had to hear the other side and, maybe, they had a legitimate reason.
Now you be the judge.
What would you have done?
We got to talking of cabbages and kings—of how overburdened the judiciary was; the pay increase meant longer hours. Saturday meant work with the Lok Adaalat, not a holiday like the lawyers and others got.
As we were discussing ways to tweak the system for speed, the opposing lawyer arrived and all was well. We progressed. Patience had paid dividends.
Three days later, a news report carried a story about the Thane court’s Lok Adaalat and how a Rs79-lakh award was granted by it in just six months. The speedy settlement was applauded by all, insurers included. The system had worked well. Good had prevailed.
On the Internet that morning was another bit of news. Two Delhi women had approached the West Delhi District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, asking for relief. They had two bills from a beauty parlour. The bills guaranteed ‘life-time’ service, something denied to them.
As in all cases, documentary evidence is of utmost importance. The bills had the words ‘life-time’ written on them. The women said that was proof enough. They must be compensated. The complainants had told the Forum that they had registered for the beauticians’ life-time course for limited services from Global Looks Beauty Parlour in June 2010, but the salon neither gave any services of this particular course nor did it refund their course fee of Rs16,000.
Open and shut case? Well, not exactly. On proper scrutiny of the bills, it was found that the words ‘life-time’ had been added later. Even the handwriting was different.
Now you be the judge.
The consumer forum is not a place to be toyed with. It held that the complainants tried to take undue advantage of the system, tampered with the receipts (forgery would be the correct word) and filed the complaint on frivolous grounds. Anyone so inclined, it said, must be shown the door.
“The legal system is meant not only to protect the poor litigant and a consumer who is not having enough bargaining power in comparison to the service provider but it is also meant to do justice to both the parties before it….” the Forum member, Urmila Gupta, said.
At a Moneylife Foundation seminar, the topic of bogus cases had come up and it was pointed that a very large majority of cases is filed by dishonest people. The beauty parlour case is one more instance of crooks that clog the courts, denying the honest the time to have matters heard.
If readers are at the receiving end in something similar, what should they do? First, win the case. It is easy, if you are in the right. Next, take the perpetrators to court. Forgery is a crime. Coupled with malicious prosecution, you will be awarded costs, for expenses and harassment. And you will find that the courts are, surprisingly and quickly, decongested. To cry oneself hoarse with suggestions of 24X7, 365-day courts, more judges and more staff, is not the answer. The real solution is before us. It is up to us.
Bapoo Malcolm is a practising lawyer in Mumbai. Please email your comments to [email protected]
For years, Dr Michael Reinstein prescribed the powerful drug clozapine more than any other doctor in Medicare or Medicaid. His patterns were the subject of two ProPublica articles and he faces a federal civil lawsuit alleging health care fraud
Illinois medical regulators have indefinitely suspended the medical license of psychiatrist Michael Reinstein, who prescribed more of the most powerful and riskiest antipsychotic drug clozapine than any other doctor in the country.
The decision by Illinois' Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, signed Friday, suspends Reinstein's license for a minimum of three years, at which time he can apply to have it reinstated.
The state's medical disciplinary board recommended the sanction in May after determining that Reinstein, 71, received "illegal direct and indirect remuneration" from the maker of generic clozapine; did not consider alternative treatments for his patients; and disregarded patients' well-being because of potentially life-threatening side effects of the drug. Reinstein's motion for a rehearing was denied Friday, making the matter public.
Clozapine is approved to treat patients who don't respond to other medications. But it can have dangerous side effects, including seizures, inflammation of the heart muscle, and a drop in white blood cells. The drug is considered particularly dangerous for elderly patients.
Reinstein's prescribing patterns have been explored in two ProPublica reports.
In 2009, ProPublica and the Chicago Tribune detailed how he had prescribed more of the antipsychotic clozapine to patients in Medicaid's Illinois program in 2007 than all doctors in the Medicaid programs of Texas, Florida and North Carolina combined. Autopsy and court records showed that, by 2009, at least three patients under Reinstein's care had died of clozapine intoxication. At that time, Reinstein defended his prescription record, arguing that clozapine is effective and underprescribed.
Last year, as part of an investigation into Medicare's failure to monitor problem prescribers, ProPublica reported that Reinstein prescribed even more clozapine in Medicare's prescription drug program for seniors and the disabled. We found that the program continued to let him prescribe even after the U.S. Department of Justice accused him of fraud and Illinois' Medicaid program suspended payments to him.
Reinstein's attorney did not return a phone call or email seeking comment. An outgoing message on Reinstein's cell phone said, "Due to a personal emergency I will not be working as of today. I will return to work as quickly as I can."
In their response to the medical board's accusations, Reinstein's lawyers invoked his right against self-incrimination.
The state of Illinois has the authority to permanently revoke a doctor's license, but typically only does so for sex crimes or assaults on patients, a spokeswoman said by email.
When a doctor's license is indefinitely suspended, as is the case with Reinstein, the doctor must apply after a set time to return to practice; the state's approval is not automatic.
The federal fraud lawsuit against Reinstein is pending in U.S. District Court in Chicago. In a November 2012 news release announcing the case, the government said that Reinstein "received illegal kickbacks from pharmaceutical companies and submitted at least 140,000 false claims to Medicare and Medicaid for antipsychotic medications he prescribed for thousands of mentally ill patients in area nursing homes."
Prosecutors allege that Reinstein's prescribing decisions were motivated by money and perks from pharmaceutical companies. He allegedly switched patients from one brand of clozapine to another based on money and other enticements he received from a drugmaker.
In March, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., the maker of generic clozapine, agreed to pay more than $27.6 million to settle state and federal allegations that it induced Reinstein to prescribe the drug.
Reinstein's prescribing of clozapine appears to have declined after the 2009 articles about him. From 2007 to 2009, he wrote an average of 20,000 Medicare prescriptions annually for clozapine and a brand-name version, FazaClo. That figure dropped to about 8,000 in 2012, according to data obtained by ProPublica.
The iron and steel industry is going through a crisis of raw material supply, which, due to lack of adequate despatches from domestic miners, is being imported at high cost
The iron ore prices in the international market have been falling in the last couple of years and are currently in the range of $92-$95 per tonne. Imports by China have also reduced. But main supplies from Australia and Brazil have continued to hold the market, which was traditionally dominated by low grade iron ore, obtained from Goa. The Chinese had mastered the art of a high grade ore mix from both the above countries.
Chinese have, in the absence of low grade iron ore supplies from Goa have reconfigured their blast furnaces to make steel, as the uncertainty has continued for the last two years. Goa mining operations of this low grade iron ore, which has a capex of 20 mt (million tonnes), are expected to resume once the rains stop. E-auctions of ready stocks are continuing to trickle into the market.
As against the 14 mt of iron ore that Sesa Sterlite used to mine in Goa before the ban, they may now be producing about 3 mt to 3.5 mt.
The Goa State Assembly proposes to hold comprehensive discussions on the guidelines that will form the backbone of the mining industry in the state on 18th August. Chief Minister, Manohar Parrikar, has indicated that the mining leases which are currently under suspension may be handed over to their traditional owners, as the state government is not interested in taking them over (or even auctioning them).
In the meantime, due to the uncertainty associated with the mining industry, it has been reported that 55 barges, generally used for carrying iron ore in Goa, out of the 525 in operation, were sold to buyers from Gujarat, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Karnataka.
It may be recalled that, the Supreme Court had imposed a ban (in 2012) on Karnataka iron ore pellet exports. Earlier, the apex court had said that "iron ore and its products will be sold by NMDC only through e-auction to steel and associated industries which are dependent on iron ore from Karnataka. No middlemen/ traders will be eligible to participate in the e-auction and no export will be permissible."
This was in response to an appeal submitted by miners, including KSPL Ltd and the government-owned KIOCL and NMDC Ltd. These companies had contended that as there was a domestic market for pellets produced by them. Still, they were being forced to operate at 50% capacity.
In a later development, during the recent visit the Iranian Mining Minister, had shown keen interest in importing iron ore pellets manufactured in Karnataka, as their own domestic supply was of much poorer quality. It may be remembered that Iran has a running rupee account with UCO Bank in Kolkata and has a substantial credit balance. He showed serious interest in obtaining these iron ore pellets from KIOCL (formerly also known as Kudremukh Iron Ore Co Ltd). Since the requirement of 20 mt, spread over five years, is large, and can help the industry, the matter has now been taken up at the Central Government level, according to CMD, Malaya Chatterjee. Any assistance would enable them to kill two birds with one stone. Low grade iron ore can not be consumed by the steel industry. Also, the pellet makers were having idle capacity.
The iron and steel industry is also going through a crisis of raw material supply, which, due to lack of adequate despatches from domestic miners, is being imported at high cost.
This industry also needs urgent attention of the government to resolve these issues, to save the industry and to reduce the prospect of unemployment.
(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce. He was also associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US.)