A petty fine of just 5,000 rupees ($94) each on 12 doctors for conducting secret drug trials on children and patients with learning disabilities has triggered an outcry among Indian activists.
The Madhya Pradesh state government said the tests had not been cleared by health authorities, and it added that the doctors refused to disclose further details citing patient confidentiality laws.
Anand Rai, a doctor who acted as a whistle-blower over the case, told AFP on Tuesday he was angered and frustrated that the scale of the punishment would not deter future illegal trials.
"The Madhya Pradesh government has now slapped a nominal 5,000-rupee penalty on the 12 government doctors who were involved in the bizarre case," he said. "The penalty was for their failure to inform about the trials."
"All drug trials were performed on patients who had gone to these government hospitals for routine treatment. It's a criminal offence to put them under drug trials without their consent."
Ajay Singh, the leader of opposition in the Madhya Pradesh assembly, described the fine as "ridiculous".
The doctors, two of whom denied any wrong-doing to AFP, are alleged to have been paid by companies to conduct trials in the central city of Indore on drugs to treat sexual dysfunction and other problems.