A two-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justice B. R. Gavai and Justice Sandeep Mehta passed a Judgment dated 29-01-2024 in the matter of P. C Jain vs. Dr. R. P. Singh Special Leave Petition (Civil) No(s). 683-685 of 2023 and SLP(Civil) No(s). 13511-13512 of 2023 and held that the Appellant-Complainant alleged that he lost vision in his left eye due to Medical Negligence by the Respondent during a surgical procedure in 2002-2003. Further, the Appellant-Complainant has been fighting this legal battle for over 20 years to receive rightful compensation.
i) That the aforesaid Appeal filed before the Apex Court by one, P.C.Jain (Appellant) against Dr R. P. Singh (Respondent), challenged the three Orders dated 18.05.2022, 22.07.2022 and 26.09.2022 passed by National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) in Civil Appeals @ SLP(Civil) Nos. 683-685 of 2023 which dismissed the Revision Application 207/2022 filed by the Appellant-Complainant whereas the Respondent challenged the Orders dated 18.05.2022 and 22.07.2022 passed by NCDRC in Civil Appeals @ SLP(Civil) Nos.13511-13512 of 2023.
ii) The Appellant-Complainant claimed to have lost vision in his left eye due to medical negligence committed by the Respondent in a surgical procedure. Consequently, the Appellant-Complainant filed Consumer Complaint No. 115 of 2005 before the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, Faridabad (DCDRC). On 04.04.2008, the DCDRC, Faridabad allowed the Complaint, granting the Appellant-Complainant compensation of Rs. 2 Lakhs with 12% interest per annum from the date of filing until realization. Further, the DCDRC found the Respondent guilty of medical negligence.
iii) Subsequently, the Respondent challenged the DCDRC’s Order by filing First Appeal No. 1493 of 2008 before the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, Haryana (SCDRC). Thereafter, the SCDRC allowed the Appeal on 23.05.2011 and stated that since the Appellant-Complainant was operated in New Delhi, the DCDRC, Faridabad lacked territorial jurisdiction. The SCDRC directed the refund of the Rs. 2 Lakhs compensation to the Respondent.
iv) Thereafter, the Appellant-Complainant challenged the SCDRC’s decision by filing a Revision before the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC). On 29.07.2016, the NCDRC allowed the Revision and remanded the matter to the SCDRC for a fresh decision.
v) On 06.07.2017, the SCDRC again allowed the Respondent to Appeal and dismissed Complaint No. 115 of 2005. Further, the Appellant-Complainant challenged the SCDRC’s decision by filing a fresh Revision Petition No. 3446 of 2017 before the NCDRC, which accepted the petition on 18.05.2022. The NCDRC reversed the SCDRC’s decision and held that the compensation awarded by the DCDRC to be just and proper, but reduced the interest from 12% to 6%. The NCDRC set aside the SCDRC’s Order.
vi) The Respondent filed a Review Petition seeking clarification of the NCDRC’s Order. The Review Application was allowed ex-parte on 22.07.2022. The Order accepted the Respondent’s claim that he had deposited Rs. 2 Lakhs on 05.09.2008, before the SCDRC, and that this amount was released to the Appellant-Complainant on 23.05.2011. A clarificatory Order was issued on 22.07.2022, stating that the Respondent was liable to pay interest only from the date of filing the Complaint until 05.09.2008.
vii) The Appellant-Complainant again filed a Review Application objecting to the ex-parte Order of 22.07.2022, before the NCDRC. However, the NCDRC rejected the Review Application on 26.09.2022.
viii) Further, both the Appellant-Complainant and Respondent have filed Civil Appeals before the Hon’ble Supreme Court and challenged various Orders issued by the NCDRC.
The SCDRC found that the DCDRC, Faridabad, lacked territorial jurisdiction to entertain and decide the Complaint filed by the Appellant-Complainant. This was because the Appellant-Complainant was operated in New Delhi, not within the jurisdiction of the DCDRC. As a result, the SCDRC allowed the Respondent’s Appeal and directed the refund of the Rs. 2 Lakhs compensation awarded to the Appellant-Complainant by the DCDRC to the Respondent.
a) The NCDRC reversed the SCDRC’s decision regarding jurisdiction and held that the DCDRC, Faridabad, did indeed have jurisdiction to entertain and decide the Complaint filed by the Appellant-Complainant. This was contrary to the SCDRC’s finding that the DCDRC lacked jurisdiction due to the location of the operation in New Delhi.
b) The NCDRC upheld the compensation awarded by the DCDRC to the Appellant-Complainant to the extent of Rs. 2 Lakhs, stating it to be just and proper given the circumstances of the case. However, the NCDRC found the interest rate awarded by the DCDRC at 12% per annum to be excessive. Consequently, the NCDRC reduced the interest rate to 6%. the NCDRC set aside the SCDRC’s order, and effectively reinstated the compensation awarded by the DCDRC with the adjusted interest rate.
Aggrieved by the three Orders dated 18.05.2022, 22.07.2022 and 26.09.2022 passed by NCDRC which dismissed the Revision Application 207/2022 filed by the Appellant-Complainant whereas the Respondent challenged the Orders dated 18.05.2022 and 22.07.2022 passed by NCDRC for Compensation before the Hon’ble Supreme Court, thereby challenging the NCDRC Orders that set aside the SCDRC Order dated 06.07.2017.
1) The Hon’ble Supreme Court noted that the Medical Council of India (MCI) had found the Respondent guilty of professional misconduct and medical negligence in treating the Appellant-Complainant. Further, this decision, which included removing the Respondent’s name from the Indian Medical Register for six months, was not challenged by the Respondent and thus had attained finality.
2) After considering the findings of the MCI and receiving no challenge from the Respondent, there was no longer any dispute regarding the issue of medical negligence committed by the Respondent during the Appellant-Complainant’s treatment.
3) Further, the Apex Court noted that the Appellant-Complainant, who was 84 years old, had been pursuing compensation for more than 20 years. While the NCDRC had reduced the interest rate from 12% to 6%, the Supreme Court found this reduction unjustified and reinstated the interest rate at 12% per annum from the date of filing of the Complaint until actual payment.
3) The Bench directed the Respondent to pay compensation of Rs. 2 Lakhs along with 12% interest per annum to the Appellant-Complainant, with the interest effective from the date of filing the Complaint until the actual payment. The Respondent was given a two-month deadline to make the payment, failing which the interest rate would be enhanced to 15% per annum.
4) The Supreme Court imposed a cost of Rs. 50,000/- upon the Respondent for procuring an order under review by making a false representation regarding the payment of compensation to the Appellant-Complainant. This amount would be paid to the Appellant-Complainant upon realization.
5) The Supreme Court allowed the Civil Appeals filed by the Appellant-Complainant and rejected the Civil Appeals filed by the Respondent.
Based on the aforementioned facts, the Supreme Court upheld the findings of medical negligence against the Respondent in the treatment of the Appellant-Complainant, as determined by the Medical Council of India. Despite attempts to challenge jurisdiction and compensation, the Apex Court concluded the matter by affirming the Appellant-Complainant’s entitlement to Rs. 2 Lakhs compensation with 12% interest from the date of Complaint filing. Notably, the Bench reinstated the interest rate and rejected a reduction imposed by the NCDRC the Respondent was directed to pay the compensation within two months, facing increased interest if it failed.
Additionally, the Court penalized the Respondent with a Rs. 50,000/- cost for falsely claiming compensation payment. Ultimately, the Court’s ruling favoured, the Appellant-Complainant providing closure to the prolonged legal battle over medical negligence and rightful compensation.
The Indian Lawyer
By and large medical negligence matters are very complicated and difficult to prove by the patient. Doctors and hospitals take advantage of this fact and are very casual in handling their professional duties. In fact there is a tendency to be very complacent in medical negligence cases are filed as they are very sure it would be practically impossible for such patients to get medical evidence by a fellow doctor to prove their negligence. It is very heartening to see judgements like the above where a patient gets his due after a fight for 20 years. Our Firm has also handled a medical negligence case and fought it for 18 years before the doctor finally gave in and paid the compensation as per the
Order of the SCDRC.
Sushila Ram Varma
The Indian Lawyer