This article is written by Sagnik Chatterjee, a student at Symbiosis Law School, Pune

 Case Number

CRIMINAL APPEAL NOS. 1191-1194 OF 2005

Equivalent Citation 

AIR 2010 SC 1162


S.B. Sinha, Deepak Verma

Decided on

7 August, 2009

Relevant Act/ Section

This case deals with the act of negligence or medical negligence to be specific performed by the Doctor in a Government hospital which comes under the Tort law. Tort Law is not codified in this country and it is largely based on the precedents of the cases on similar lines.  

Brief Facts

  1. In the case of Malay Kumar Ganguly v. Dr. Sukumar Mukherjee[1], the Supreme Court remanded this matter to the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission to award just and reasonable compensation to Mr. Kunal Saha (the Claimant).
  2. The National Commission held the doctors and the AMRI Hospital negligent in treating the wife of the claimant on account of which she died and awarded a compensation of Rs.1,55,60,000 to the claimant.
  3. The doctors and the Hospital were aggrieved by this amount of compensation awarded by the National Commission to be too harsh and unjust.
  4. On the other hand, the claimant (Dr.Saha) was aggrieved by the inadequate amount of compensation. He considered this sum to be much lesser than what he had claimed and what he thought to be just.
  5. Hence, the matter came up before the Supreme Court. Following is the damages claimed by the claimant in this case.

Issues Framed by the Court

  1. Whether the claim of the claimant for enhancement of compensation in his appeal is justified. If it is so, for what compensation he is entitled to?
  2. Whether the National Commission is justified in adopting the multiplier method to determine the compensation and to award the compensation in favour of the claimant?
  3. Whether the claimant is entitled to pecuniary damages under the heads of loss of employment, loss of his property and his travelling expenses from the U.S.A. to India to conduct the proceedings in his claim petition?
  4. Whether the claimant is entitled to the interest on the compensation that would be awarded?
  5. Whether the compensation awarded in the impugned judgment and the apportionment of the compensation amount fastened upon the doctors and the hospital requires interference and whether the claimant is liable for contributory negligence and deduction of compensation under this head?

Ratio of the Case

The court held that the claim for enhancement of the compensation is justified on the following grounds.

  1. The claim has been pending for the last 15 years. Since then, Rupee has devalued significantly. Also, various cases were cited that held that inflation must be taken into consideration for the purposes of such calculations.
  1. The principle of restitutio in integrum was applied. The said principle provides that a person entitled to damages should, as nearly as possible, get that sum of money which would put him in the same position as he would have been if he had not sustained the wrong.
  1. Various cases where more compensation was awarded than what was claimed were cited. Also, rather than relying on the technical and the procedural requirements, the emphasis was laid on the duty to award just and reasonable compensation to do complete justice to the affected claimant.
  1. Hence all three points were decided in favour of the claimant.

While dealing with the second issue the court said that it is sceptical about using a straitjacket multiplier method for determining the quantum of compensation in medical negligence claims. 

While dealing with the next issue the court also decided in favour of the claimant. Compensation under various heads such as cost of litigation, legal expenses, travelling expenses was given by the court.

The court observed that normally when a money decree is passed, it is most essential that interest be granted for the period during which the money was due, but could not be utilised by the person in whose favour an order of recovery of money was passed. The object of a court in awarding interest to a successful litigant is to compensate him for being kept out of money which the court has found is properly due to him. The court also held that not granting interest was not only unreasonable but also against the provisions of the Interest Act, 1978.

The court held that the AMRI Hospital is vicariously liable for its doctors. It is clearly mentioned in Savita Garg’s case that a Hospital is responsible for the conduct of its doctors both on the panel and the visiting doctors.

The court absolved Dr. Kunal Saha of all liabilities and held that he is in no manner responsible for Contributory negligence for the death of his wife. It was held in the Malay Kumar’s case that:

“The respondents also sought to highlight on the number of antibiotics which are said to have been administered by Kunal to Anuradha while she was in AMRI contending that the said antibiotics were necessary. Kunal, however, submitted that the said antibiotics were prescribed by the doctors at AMRI and he did not write any prescription. We would, however, assume that the said antibiotics had been administered by Kunal on his own, but it now stands admitted that administration of such antibiotics was necessary.

To conclude, it will be pertinent to note that even if we agree that there was interference by Kunal Saha during the treatment, it in no way diminishes the primary responsibility and default in duty on part of the defendants. In spite of a possibility of him playing an overanxious role during the medical proceedings, the breach of duty to take basic standard of medical care on the part of defendants is not diluted. To that extent, contributory negligence is not pertinent. It may, however, have some role to play for the purpose of damages.”

Decision of the Court

Quoting from the judgment, a careful reading of the above paragraphs together from the decision of Malay Kumar Ganguly’s case would go to show that the claimant though overanxious, did to the patient what was necessary as a part of the treatment. According to the Supreme Court, the National Commission erred in reading in isolation the statement of the Supreme Court that the claimant’s action may have played some role for the purpose of damage.

Hence, the Court re-emphasized the finding that the claimant did not contribute to the negligence of the appellants-doctors and AMRI Hospital which resulted in the death of his wife.

Final Details of Compensation awarded by the Court 

Loss of income of the deceased- Rs.5,72,00,550/-, For Medical treatment in Kolkata and Mumbai- Rs.7,00,000/-, Travel and Hotel expenses at Mumbai- Rs.6,50,000/-, Loss of consortium- Rs.1,00,000/-, Pain and suffering- Rs.10,00,000/-, Cost of litigation- Rs.11,50,000/-

Total- Rs.6,08,00,550/-

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