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THE MEDICAL DISCIPLINARY COMMITTEE
SUIT NO. FSC 36/1959
(1959) 4 F.S.C. 38
BEFORE THEIR LORDSHIPS
IN THE MATTER OF THE SUSPENSION FROM MEDICAL PRACTICE OF DR. M.O. ALAKIJA
THE MEDICAL DISCIPLINARY COMMITTEE
GOVERNMENT AND ADMINISTRATIVE LAW: – Medical Practice – Section 26(1) of Medical Practitioner and Dentists Ordinance Cap. 116 – Proceedings at Medical Disciplinary Committee – Registrar acting as prosecutor during proceedings and then being present when final deliberations of panel was made – Whether offends Principles of natural justice.
ETHICS – MEDICAL PRACTITIONER: investigation of wrongdoing against member of a professional group – constitution and sitting of investigative panels – need to observe rules of fair hearing and natural justice
HEALTHCARE AND LAW – MEDICAL MALPRACTICE:- Proceedings of Medical Disciplinary Committee – Need to observe principles of natural justice and fair hearing – Failure thereto – Effect on final decision of Committee
This was an appeal under the provisions of Section 26(1) of the Medical Practitioners and Dentists Ordinance, Cap. 116 of the Laws of Nigeria which came before us on the 10th March, 1959, when we held that the decision of the Medical Disciplinary Committee that the appellant’s name be removed from the Medical Register for the period of two years could not stand and we now give our reason for so holding.
Five grounds of appeal were filed, but only the fifth was argued and that reads as follows:
‘The enquiry was conducted in a manner contrary to principles of natural justice in that the Registrar who was in fact the prosecutor took part in the Committee’s deliberations.”
This ground of appeal was supported by an affidavit by the appellant which averred that the Registrar, Dr. O.B. Alakija, remained with the members of the Committee while they were considering their decision after the appellant and his legal representatives had been asked to retire from the room.
The averments in the appellant’s affidavit were not in any way contested by Mr. Miller, who appeared on behalf of the Committee, and Mr. Moore, who appeared with Mr. J. O. Coker and Mr. O.O. Alakija for the appellant, in his submissions on the ground of appeal above set out, pointed out that from the record it was plain that the Registrar acted throughout the proceedings in much the same capacity as prosecuting counsel appears at a criminal trial, in that he was called upon to and did adduce the evidence against the appellant before the Committee and also that at the close of this evidence he addressed the Committee saying he had concluded his case.
It is plain from the issue of the Gazette constituting the membership of the Medical Disciplinary Committee that the Registrar is neither by name or by virtue of the position he holds in the service of the Federal Government a member of the Committee and, therefore, it is plain that he should not have remained with the Committee during their consideration of their decision.
We are not prepared on the evidence before us to go so far as the ground of appeal does in saying that the Registrar actually took part in the Committee’s deliberations, but his mere presence at the deliberations offends against the principle so frequently enunciated in recent cases, in which a clerk to Petty Sessions has retired as a matter of course with the members of the Bench when they are considering their verdict, that justice must not only be done but must be manifestly seen to be done.
We considered, therefore, that the principles of natural justice had, owing to the Registrar remaining with the Committee during their deliberations not been fully observed and we further held the view that this was a vital matter making the proceedings at the Committee unsatisfactory. We, therefore, held that the decision of the Committee could not stand.
It was conceded by Mr. Miller that our powers in such a case as this are very limited, in that section 26(2) of Cap. 116 provides only that this Court may affirm, reverse or vary the order appealed against. Both the first and the third of these alternatives are plainly inappropriate and, we therefore, have no alternative but to reverse the decision of the Disciplinary Committee. There will be no order as to costs.
Decision of Disciplinary Committee reversed.