SC finds Judicial Negligence in a Medical Negligence Case; Directs to re-hear the case

SC finds Judicial Negligence in a Medical Negligence Case; Directs to re-hear the case

The Supreme Court directed the High Court of Punjab and Haryana to rehear a special leave petition on finding judicial negligence while hearing a case on medical negligence. The bench comprising of Justice K S Radhakrishnan said that, “the judgment (of the Punjab and Haryana High Court) is vitiated by an error apparent on the face of the record, which goes to the very root of the matter in a case relating to medical negligence”.

The appellant INSCOL Multispecialty Hospital, placed in Chandigarh, was charged for being criminally liable for their medical negligence in the due course death of the wife of the Respondent, Indrajeet Arora. The petitioner and Dr. Jayant Banerjee were also held for “fleecing money” by the High Court.

The apex court said, “We heard Shri P.S.  Patwalia,  learned  senior  counsel  for   the Appellants, as well as Shri Jagjit Singh  Arora,  who  appeared  in  person. Shri Patwalia submitted that the judgment  as  well  as  the  order  in  the review petition is vitiated by serious error on the face of the  record  and liable to be set aside and the High Court be directed to rehear  the  matter in accordance with law. Respondent No.1, the party-in-person, on  the  other hand, submitted, on facts as well as on  law,  that  the  judgment  and  the order in the review petition are unassailable  and,  therefore,  the  matter could be examined by this Court on merits”.

The High Court held Managing Director and Director criminally liable and their liability stems from failure to use reasonable care in the maintenance of safe and adequate facilities  and  equipment  i.e.  ventilator which  was  not  available at the time when the patient was in need. On the basis of having unqualified doctors, standard of negligence, breach of duty, causation and damage, they were held liable for the eventual death of the Respondent’s wife.

The judgement given by the apex court dismissed the appeal on the basis of judicial negligence on following statement made by the Single Learned Judge of the High Court –

The entire approach  of  the  learned Single Judge while entering a finding on the two questions framed  was  that due to medical negligence, the patient died.  The said fact is reflected  inthe whole gamut of the judgment.   In  one  portion  of  the  judgment,  the learned Single Judge has stated as follows : “The condition of Mrs. Arora extremely deteriorated  and  she  had  to remain hospitalized in ICU of Fortis Hospital for about 2  months  and thereafter, she was shifted to PGI,  Chandigarh,  where  she  remained admitted for one month. Ultimately, she died.”

Later, the learned Single Judge also opined as follows :-

“The hospital authorities had  employed  unqualified  doctors  in  ICU which resulted into death of Mrs. Arora in spite of best  efforts  for shifting to other  hospital,  like  Fortis  and  PGI.   Initial  wrong treatment in the INSCOL Hospital where the  unqualified  doctors  were employed resulted into death of respondent no.1’s wife which certainly amounts to an offence under the provisions of the Indian Penal Code.”

The Supreme Court contended that the learned Judge of the High Court notified the “Registry” to replace many of the terms mentioned therein, which changed the gamut of the issue in its entirety, to replace death to the brink of death; Faculty to Facility; Dr. N.P. Singh to Dr. Sudhir Saxena; Section 14(2) to Section 15 (2a) and other such replacements.

 “By correcting the judgment, the very foundation and the issue formulated, broken down and  fell  on  the ground and the issue framed by the learned Single Judge, lost its  sanctity” the bench observed.

The bench notified that nowhere did it find any documentation signifying the death of the wife of the Respondent which is the focal point of the issue adjudicated on by the learned judge of the High Court.

Henceforth, the apex court directed the judge of the High Court of Punjab and Chandigarh to rehear the case afresh.