Party Who Has Not Acted Diligently Or Remained Inactive Is Not Entitled To Condonation Of Delay: NCDRC

Ayushi Rani

7 Jun 2024 8:45 AM GMT

  • Party Who Has Not Acted Diligently Or Remained Inactive Is Not Entitled To Condonation Of Delay: NCDRC

    The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, presided by Mr. Subhash Chandra and Dr. Sadhna Shanker(member), dismissed an appeal against St. Stephen's Hospital over delay in filing the appeal by the opposite party and held that that condonation of delay is not a right, and the applicant must show sufficient reasons for the delay. Brief Facts of the Case ...

    The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, presided by Mr. Subhash Chandra and Dr. Sadhna Shanker(member), dismissed an appeal against St. Stephen's Hospital over delay in filing the appeal by the opposite party and held that that condonation of delay is not a right, and the applicant must show sufficient reasons for the delay.

    Brief Facts of the Case

    The complainant registered with St. Stephen's Hospital during the fourth month of her first pregnancy and got herself examined by the doctors in the hospital throughout her pregnancy. The complainants(husband & wife) deposited all medical expenses raised by the hospital occasionally. During the pregnancy, the hospital conducted all necessary tests, including ultrasounds, and the doctors reported everything as normal. The patient was admitted to the hospital and delivered a male child. It is alleged that the delivery was forced, and there were complications, a fact that was never communicated to the complainants or their family members. The complainants or any family member was never informed that the newborn child had been shifted to the nursery due to a deficiency of oxygen. Three days after delivery, the doctors informed the complainants that the child's condition was not good and that he had suffered a brain hemorrhage. It was alleged that during the delivery process, there was fatal distress as the doctors did not decide to abort the delivery process and perform a cesarean section (LSCS). It was further alleged that the doctors did not monitor the patient properly, resulting in the fetus developing distress. The child had Perinatal Asphyxia, and the cause of Asphyxia is attributed to the non-availability of a pediatrician at the time of delivery or the non-competence or negligence of the pediatrician. The Asphyxia led to brain damage, causing the child to be spastic. The brain damage of the child was detected by a CT scan. Hence, alleging medical negligence on the part of the hospital, the complainants filed a complaint before the State Commission, which dismissed the complaint. The complainants then filed an appeal before the National Commission but with a delay of 213 days.

    Contentions of the Hospital

    The hospital contested that the complaint was misconceived and malicious and that it had been filed with the sole intention of covering up the mother's criminal act of abandoning her newborn baby. The hospital contended that during the delivery, the fetus had suffered slight distress. Active resuscitative measures were taken, and the child was revived. They further alleged that a medical board had been constituted and, upon examination, concluded that the child was fit to be discharged from the hospital, indicating no negligence on their part.

    Observations by the Commission

    The commission observed that the complainant contended that the delay in filing the appeal was due to their distress after passing the State Commission's Order. Furthermore, the complainant stated that their child required continuous medical treatments and attention, affecting their financial and mental well-being. Understanding medical science's technical and procedural aspects and seeking medical opinions from experts and gynecology and obstetrics books was time-consuming. Further, it was argued that the delay was bona fide and beyond the complainant's control. However, the commission highlighted that the complainants should have taken steps to challenge the order at the earliest since the period prescribed for filing an appeal under the Act is 30 days, and the explanation provided by the complainants did not adequately explain why it took so much time at various stages to decide and finalize the appeal, given the delay of 213 days. The law of limitation requires each day of delay to be explained rationally and reasonably. The Commission cited the ruling in State Bank of India vs. B S Agriculture Industries (I) (2009), wherein the Supreme Court held that consumer forum must ensure complaints are filed within two years of the cause of action and may only condone delays if sufficient cause is shown, otherwise deciding on a time-barred complaint would be illegal. Furthermore, the Apex Court stated that the settled legal proposition of the law of limitation under the Consumer Protection Act must be applied rigorously when the statute prescribes, even if it may harshly affect a particular party. In this case, the complainant has not provided adequate and sufficient reasons to approach this Commission within the limitation period. The commission further referred to the case of R.B. Ramlingam vs. R. B. Bhavaneshwari, I (2009), in which the Supreme Court described the test for determining whether the petitioner has acted with due diligence. It was held that the true guide is whether the petitioner has acted with reasonable diligence in the prosecution of his appeal/petition. Furthermore, in Anshul Aggarwal Vs. New Okhla Industrial Development Authority (2011), the Supreme Court held that the special period of limitation under the Consumer Protection Act aims for expeditious adjudication of consumer disputes, and this objective would be defeated if highly belated petitions were entertained. In the instant case, the order of the delay of 213 days in filing the appeal against the State Commission's order was not satisfactorily explained.

    The Commission dismissed the appeal and upheld the State Commission's order.

    Case Title: Sunita Kumar Vs. St. Stephen's Hospital

    Case Number: F.A. No. 336/2020


    Next Story