Doctor dragged to consumer forum gets respite after 16 years

TS consumer commission calls Adilabad panel’s compensation order ‘obnoxious’

About 16 years after he was dragged to a consumer forum and directed to pay ₹1.98 lakh as compensation for ‘medical negligence’, a government doctor got relief when the Telangana State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission set aside the forum’s order terming it ‘obnoxious’.

The commission comprising president M.S.K. Jaiswal and member Meena Ramanathan was dealing with an appeal filed by Dr. Shankerlal Lahoti and nurse Kalavathi, both working at the Government Civil Hospital, Chennur mandal in Adilabad. The respondents were Naseemunnisa Begum, the original complainant in the case, Government of AP, and Professional Protection and Welfare Scheme of the IMA.

On September 17, 2005, Ms. Begum had filed a complaint stating that she was taken to the hospital from school when she fell sick, and a nurse there administered a shot. Soon, she developed a swelling on her arm and was taken to another hospital. Later, she had approached the Adilabad District Forum claiming medical negligence, and the matter was disposed of in November 2010. Dr. Lahoti preferred an appeal, after which the case was sent back to the forum and was disposed of in June 2018.

This time, the consumer forum, which had dwelt on whether Ms. Begum was a consumer and opined that her parents were taxpayers for which government hospitals were offering treatment, stated that the respondents could not escape liability.

Dealing with circumstances under which the Consumer Protection Act can be invoked, the commission stated that in the absence of any payment, the opposite parties are not liable to pay any compensation. Coming down heavily on the district forum, the commission stated there was ‘no application of mind’.

The commission also stated that “we have no hesitation in holding that the first respondent/complainant was treated in a government hospital, where no kind of fees was collected either from the complainant or any other patient”. “The observations of the district forum that since citizens pay taxes to the government and the government is running the hospital, they are liable, is obnoxious,” the commission averred.

Apart from setting aside the forum’s order, the commission directed that if the appellant had deposited any amount, it can be withdrawn along with interest.

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