Medical Law

SUPREME COURT JUDGEMENT REGARDING APPLICATION OF SECTION OF NEGLIGENCE TO DOCTORS

CASE NO. : Appeal (crl.) ]44-145 of 2001

PETITIONER : Jacob Mathew

RESPONDENT : State of Punjab & Anr.

DATE OF JUDGEMENT : 05/08/2005

BENCH : CJI R.C. LAHOTI~G.P. MATHUR & P.K BALASUBRAMANYAN

JUDGMENT : JUDGMENT R.C. LAHOTI, CJ 1

Ashok Kumar Sharma, the respondent no.2 herein filed a First Information Report with police station. Division No.3, Ludhiana, whereupon an offence under Section 304A read with Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code (for short “the IPC”) was registered. The gist of the information is that on 15.2.1995, the informant’s father, late Jiwan Lar Sharma was admitted as a patient in a private ward of CMC Hospital, Ludhiana. On 22.2. I995 at about 11 p.m. Jiwan La! felt difficult), in breathing. The .complainant’s elder brother, Vijay Sharma who was present in the room contacted the duty nurse, who in her turn called some doctor to attend to the patient. No doctor turned up for about 20 to 25 In minutes. Then, Dr. Jacob Mathew, the appellant before us and Dr. Allen Joseph came to the room of the patient. An oxygen cylinder was brought and connected to the mouth of the patient but the breathing problem increased further. The patient tried to get up but the medical staff asked him to remain in the bed. The oxygen cylinder was found to be empty. There was no other gas cylinder available in the room. Vijay Sharma went to the adjoining room and brought a gas cylinder there from. However,there was no arrangement to make the gas cylinder functional and in-between, 5 to 7 minutes were wasted. By this time, another doctor came who declared that the patient was dead. The latter part of the FIR states (as per the translation in English as filed by the complainant):

“The death of my father was occurred due to the carelessness of doctors and nurses and non availability of oxygen cylinder and the empty cylinder was fixed on the mouth of my father and his breathing was totally stopped hence my father died. l sent the dead body of my father to my village for last cremation and for information I have come to you. Suitable action be done Sd/- .............................As per statement of imitator the death of Jiwan Lal Sharma has occurred due to carelessness of doctors and nurses concerned and to fit empty gas cylinder:”

On the above said report, an offence’ under Section 304A/34 IPC was registered and investigated. Challan was filed against the two doctors.

The Judicial Magistrate First Class, Ludhiana framed charges under Section 304A, lPC against the two accused persons, both doctors. Both of them filed a revision in the Court of Sessions Judge submitting that there was no ground for framing charge against them . The revision dismissed. The appellant filed a petition in the High Court under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure praying for quashing of the FIR and all subsequent proceedings.

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