Friday, August 12, 2022

Justice Leburu recuses himself in Bhagat’s P8m suit

Lobatse High Court judge, Justice Michael Leburu, on Friday recused himself from presiding in a case in which specialist cardiologist, Professor Kiran Bhagat, is suing the Botswana Health Professionals Council (BHPC) for P8 million.

The judge’s recusal was confirmed to the Sunday Standard by Bhagat’s lawyer, Reuben Kamushinda, in an interview.

Bhagat is pressing ahead with a law suit against the BHPC, which had accused him of illegally practicing in the country as a specialist cardiologist. He was cleared by the Court of Appeal after Justice Leburu had ruled that he was practicing without lawful and proper registration.

In his scathing judgment, Leburu had pronounced that Bhagat was never registered to practice in Botswana, has been practicing using someone else’s name and certificate of registration as well as that he had no reputation to protect as he had previously admitted to plagiarism.

The BHPC had deposed in its affidavits that Bhagat was using the identity of his cousin, one Dr Kaushik Kumar B Bhagat, who was registered as a specialist physician in 1996 and that, as such, he was never registered with the Health Professionals Council to practice in the country as a specialist cardiologist.

The judge had also found that Bhagat never qualified in the UK as cardiologist and implored the Directorate of Public Prosecutions to investigate Bhagat with a view of laying criminal charges against him.

Judge Leburu further dismissed Bhagat’s case with costs holding that it was appropriate and competent for the court to show its disapproval of the applicant’s conduct by awarding punitive costs as the applicant’s conduct was reprehensible and spanned over a decade in which he had masqueraded as Kaushik and coiled a pungent web of lies, dishonesty and deceit and practiced medicine without lawful and proper registration.

Following the High Court decision, BHPC ordered Bhagat to close his heart clinic. Although he obliged, Bhagat then lodged an appeal with the Court of Appeal, which overturned Justice Leburu’s judgment.

In its decision, the Appeals Court held that the decision by the BHPC to bar Bhagat from practising as a specialist cardiologist was wrongful and that the court had misdirected itself in finding that the applicant had obtained registration fraudulently.

The court found that the finding by the lower court that Bhagat had masqueraded as one Kaushik Bhagat in obtaining registration was unfounded in that in all his applications, the appellant had attached certificates bearing his names.

Justice Lord Alistair Abernathy of the Court of Appeal said it was clear from the evidence before the court that the BHPC was responsible for the confusion that emanated from the use of the name Kaushik on the appellant’s registration card, adding that to prove that there was no dishonesty on his part, Bhagat had personally written to the council requesting to have the names on the card corrected to match the documents he had attached with his application.

The appeals court ordered the council to recognize Bhagat as a specialist medical practitioner who is qualified and entitled to be registered and to practice as such and call himself a specialist physician and cardiologist.

The council was also ordered to record in its register that Bhagat is registered as a cardiologist as well as to issue him a certificate permitting him to practice as a specialist physician upon payment of the necessary fees.

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