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Consumer Case Not Maintainable Over Medical Services Given Free Of Charge Just Because Doctor Draws Salary From Hospital : Supreme Court

Sohini Chowdhury
9 Dec 2021 12:22 PM GMT
Consumer Case Not Maintainable Over Medical Services Given Free Of Charge Just Because Doctor Draws Salary From Hospital : Supreme Court
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"The salary that is paid by the hospital administration to the employee medical officer cannot be regarded as payment made on behalf of the person availing of the service or for his benefit so as to make the person availing the service a "consumer" under Section 2(1)(d) in respect of the service rendered to him.”

The Supreme Court has reiterated that service rendered by medical officers on behalf of a Hospital, free of cost, would not fall within the ambit of Section 2(1)(o) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 ("Act") only because the medical officers are salaried employees of the Hospital. A bench comprising Justices Hemant Gupta and V. Ramasubramanian rejected an appeal assailing...

The Supreme Court has reiterated that service rendered by medical officers on behalf of a Hospital, free of cost, would not fall within the ambit of Section 2(1)(o) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 ("Act") only because the medical officers are salaried employees of the Hospital.

A bench comprising Justices Hemant Gupta and V. Ramasubramanian rejected an appeal assailing the order passed by the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission ("NCDRC"), which dismissed the Appellant's complaint on the ground that she was not a consumer within the meaning of Section 2(1)(d)(ii) of the Act.

The Court observed that it was the admitted case of the Appellant that she had not paid any consideration to the Respondent doctors and nurses to avail their services and therefore, would not be covered under the definition of consumer under Section 2(1)(d)(ii) of the Act.

"In terms of Section 2(1)(d)(ii) of the Act, a consumer is the one who hires or avails of any services for a 'consideration' which has been paid or promised or partly paid or partly promised."

Placing reliance on Indian Medical Association v. V.P. Shantha And Ors. (1995) 6 SCC 651, the Appellant had argued that payment for services availed is not a necessary ingredient to file a consumer complaint. In regard to the argument that the services rendered by medical officers who receive emoluments in ways of salary from the Hospital would be covered by the Act, the Apex Court referred to the findings in V.P. Shantha (supra) -

"There is no merit in this contention. The medical officer who is employed in the hospital renders the service on behalf of the hospital administration and if the service, as rendered by the hospital, does not fall within the ambit of Section 2(1)(o), being free of charge,the same service cannot be treated as service under Section 2(1)(o) for the reason that it has been rendered by a medical officer in the hospital who receives salary for employment in the hospital. There is no direct nexus between the payment of the salary to the medical officer by the hospital administration and the person to whom service is rendered. The salary that is paid by the hospital administration to the employee medical officer cannot be regarded as payment made on behalf of the person availing of the service or for his benefit so as to make the person availing the service a "consumer" under Section 2(1)(d) in respect of the service rendered to him."

Reiterating, the Court noted that -

"It was thus concluded that the services rendered by employee-medical officer to such a person would therefore continue to be service rendered free of charge and would be outside the purview of Section 2(1)(0) of the Act."

Case Title : Nivedita Singh v. Dr. Asha Bharti And Ors. Civil Appeal No 103 of 2021

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