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BMJ. 2007 August 4; 335(7613): 225.
PMCID: PMC1939780

Court overturns race discrimination ruling against BMA

Clare Dyer, legal correspondent

A record race discrimination award against the BMA won five years ago by a surgeon who qualified in India was overturned last week by three appeal court judges.

Rajendra Chaudhary was awarded £814 877 (€1.2m; $1.7m) compensation—the highest ever for a race discrimination claim—by an employment tribunal in 2002 for the BMA's failure to support him in claims of race discrimination over his specialist training. The finding was upheld by the Employment Appeal Tribunal in 2004 (BMJ 2004;328:786 doi: 10.1136/bmj.328.7443.786-a).

But last week the appeal court judges said that the BMA had refused to back his claims not because of race discrimination, but because the claims were not well founded.

Lord Justice Mummery, delivering the unanimous judgment of the court, said, “The essential ground is that no reasonable tribunal . . . could have concluded that the BMA was guilty of indirect race discrimination against Mr Chaudhary or victimisation of him.”

He added, “The crucial point is that Mr Chaudhary's allegations of race discrimination against him by the regulatory medical bodies were not well founded in fact or law.”

The Employment Appeal Tribunal had upheld the employment tribunal's finding that the BMA, although willing to support members in racism claims against employers, was not prepared to take on the royal colleges, their specialty advisory committees, the postgraduate deans, or the specialist training authority. This stance was held to amount to indirect discrimination because a disproportionate number of Asian members were affected.

Mr Chaudhary, aged 48, qualified in India in 1981 and came to the United Kingdom in 1987. He spent three and a half years as a registrar in urology in Manchester, moving to a locum senior registrar post. The post was said to be “royal college approved,” and in 1992 it was listed by the Royal College of Surgeons as providing “acceptable training.”

But when Mr Chaudhary applied to the postgraduate dean to be admitted to the specialist registrar grade, the route to a consultant's post, he was told the Manchester job had not been approved by the specialty advisory committee for urology and that he would need a further 25 months' training.

Lord Justice Mummery said it was Mr Chaudhary's expectation that after a time in the Manchester post he would progress to senior registrar and eventually to consultant. But changes in training and qualification arrangements over the next few years had an impact on his ambitions to advance to consultant.

“In our view, when the established facts are analysed, it can be clearly seen that the BMA had sound reasons for believing that Mr Chaudhary had been dealt with according to the rules and that there was no basis for suspecting that the decision had been tainted by either direct or indirect race discrimination.” The BMA's refusal to support him in the discrimination case was “entirely reasonable.”

The appeal court also refused him permission to appeal against a separate tribunal ruling that the health secretary was not guilty of race discrimination against him.

Mr Chaudhary, who has retired with a stress related disorder, said that he was fighting to establish that the government had promised foreign doctors that they would receive equal or the same registrar training as UK doctors.

He was refused permission to appeal to the House of Lords but his solicitor said that he would consider exercising his remaining option—asking the lords themselves if they will hear an appeal.

The BMA's chief executive, Tony Bourne, said, “We always felt the initial judgment was wrong, and we would now like to draw a line under this episode and get back to the business of representing our members' interests to the best of our ability.

“The BMA takes accusations of racial discrimination extremely seriously. We campaign against institutional racism in the health service and have an excellent track record of regularly representing members who consider they have been discriminated against.”


Articles from The BMJ are provided here courtesy of BMJ Publishing Group