Having repeatedly summoned doctors to decipher unreadable medico legal reports in many cases, the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court has directed submission of computerised reports along with original handwritten ones for facilitating the courts of law.
The Bench comprising Justice Ajai Lamba and Justice DK Singh asserted that medico legal reports would not serve their purpose if they are only readable by medical practitioners, observing, “The medico legal report, if given clearly, can either endorse the incident as given by the eye witnesses or can disprove the incident to a great extent. This is only possible if a detailed and clear medico legal report is furnished by the doctors, with complete responsibility. The medical reports, however, are written in such shabby handwriting that they are not readable and decipherable by advocates or Judges.”
It then ordered that while attending doctors can write the examination reports in hand, a computer printed version needs to be furnished so that it can be read and understood during the proceedings at various stages of a case. This report is required to be signed by the author of the report as true copy of the original, or by some other authorised signatory, after its comparison with the original.
The court further directed investigating officers, while filing chargesheets, to file copies of handwritten medico legal reports/injury reports and post mortem reports along with their verbatim typed or computer printed version, duly certified by the authors of those documents or the head of the concerned hospital.
“These computer printed versions of medico legal reports/injury reports and post mortem reports would neither be a substitute of the original one nor would be taken as a supplement, however, they would facilitate not only the courts but also the counsel for the prosecution and the defence to clearly understand their contents and accordingly assist the court,” it clarified.
While hearing a petition demanding quashing of an FIR against one Arjun Singh, the court was coaxed into summoning a doctor from Amethi Community Health Centre (CHC) for reading the injury report.
Before parting with the case, it lamented the fact that not much has changed despite repeated directions and imposition of costs on doctors recording medico legal/injury reports in illegible handwriting.
The court noted that it had faced similar issues in the year 2012 in Chhabiraj v. State of U.P. and others, when it was forced to summon Director General, Medical and Health, U.P. Lucknow.
The Director-General had then issued a circular on November 8, 2012 directing that medico-legal report shall be written in clear writing which is legible; simple words shall be used as far as possible; short/short form/abbreviation words shall not be used; and signatures, name and designation of the doctor who prepared the report shall clearly be mentioned.
The court, however, opined that there had not been any improvement in the last six years despite these directions, and that it has had to summon the doctor to the court in every other case to read out the reports for it.
Elaborating on the inconvenience caused by the current scenario, the court observed, “We hereby take judicial notice of the fact that a doctor in a government medical facility is required to examine a large number of patients in a day. If for every hearing in revisional jurisdiction, bail jurisdiction before the Court of Magistrate, Court of Sessions or the High Court or in appellate jurisdiction government medical practitioner is required to appear, the work of the doctor in the hospital shall suffer. A large number of patients would be deprived of the services of such medical specialist. In such circumstances, summoning a doctor simply for reading the report authored by him for bad handwriting does not make administrative sense.”
In view of the fact that the circular has not been adhered to, the court directed Principal Secretary, Home, U.P., Lucknow; Principal Secretary, Medical and Health Services, U.P. Lucknow; and Director General, Medical and Health Services, U.P., Lucknow to ensure that every medical facility where medico legal examination/post-mortem examination is being conducted is provided with computers and printers. Formats of post-mortem examination reports and medico legal examination reports were directed to be made and loaded on these computer.
The court further directed that this report should contain simple words, as far as possible, and should avoid the use of abbreviations and short forms. Such reports, it said, would form part of the police report prepared under Section 173 Code of Criminal Procedure.
The Principal Secretary, UP State Medical and Health Services was directed to ensure that computer and printer with the format as stipulated by it be made available within three months.