March 23, 2017

The Golden Hour – Supreme Court Steps In

… continued (Previous Topic


  1. The Supreme Court steps in

 The situation described above had continued for long, but no attention was paid towards it by the legislature. In a PIL filed by a citizen, the Supreme Court in Parmanand Katara vs Union of India,3 issued certain directions. Seven years later, in Paschim Banga Khet Mazdoor Samity vs State of West Bengal, they noted:4

9 The Constitution envisages the establishment of a welfare State at the federal level as well as at the State level. In a welfare State the primary duty of the government is to serve the welfare of the people. Providing adequate medical facilities for the people is an essential part of the obligations undertaken by the government in a welfare State. The government discharges the obligation by running hospitals and health centres which provide medical care to the person seeking to avail of those facilities. Article 21 imposes an obligation on the State to safeguard the right to life of every person.

  1. Apart from these, the view (of law) has been:

……..that all injured persons especially in the case of road traffic accidents, assaults, etc., when brought to a hospital / medical centre, have to be offered first aid, stabilized and shifted to a higher centre / government centre if required. It is only after this that the hospital can demand payment or complete police formalities.

  1. The facts of Pravat Kumar Mukherjee vs Ruby General Hospital5 are heart rendering: (only relevant words are excerpted)

The case involves unfortunate death of a young … … a student of second year … … on 14.01.2001 who was injured in an accident at about 8.00 a.m. in which a bus of the Calcutta Tramway Corporation dashed with the motor cycle driven by

1989-4 SCC 286 = AIR 1989 SC 2039

1996-4 SCC 37

[25.04.2005] decided by National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission reported as (2005) 2 CPJ 35 (NC)

the deceased.  The deceased was brought to the Ruby General Hospital, Kolkata, which was close to the place of accident. Sumanta who was conscious after the accident was taken to the … … Hospital, … … by a crowd of people which had gathered there after the accident, … … The deceased was insured under the Mediclaim policy … … At the time of reaching the Hospital, deceased was conscious and showed the mediclaim certificate … … . He promised them that the charges for the treatment would be paid … …. Acting on the promise the respondents Hospital started the treatment in its Emergency Room by … … however after starting the treatment began to insist upon the immediate payment of Rs.15,000/- and threatened to discontinue the same if it was not immediately deposited. … … crowd … … requested … … to continue treating Sumanta and assured them that the payment would be made as soon as they were able to get in touch with the parents of Sumanta. The crowd present there also offered to pay Rs.2,000/- and to hand over the motorcycle to the respondent No.3 to 5. The mediclaim certificate issued by the Insurance Company was also showed again and again …

The respondents, however remained adamant about the immediate deposit of Rs.15,000/- … … They discontinued the treatment …

… the crowd present there were then forced to take late Sumanta to National Calcutta Medical College and Hospital which is about 7 to 8 kms. from the Ruby General Hospital. Sumanta, however, died on the way and was declared brought dead at the said hospital at 9.10 a.m.

The Commission declared that a hospital is duty bound to accept accident victims and patients who are in a critical condition and that it cannot refuse treatment on the ground that the victim is not in a position to pay the fee or meet the expenses or on the ground that there is no close relation of the victim available who can give consent for medical treatment.

  1. Recently, the Supreme Court in S. Rajaseekaran vs Union of India6 noted:
  1. The Working Group on Emergency Care took note of the fact that a large number of potentially salvageable patients die needlessly due to delay in retrieval and inadequate or ineffective treatment. In its report the Working Group had enumerated the following problems in accident and emergency care delivery in India:

6 2014-6 SCC 36

i. The general public does not possess basic first aid skills.

ii.There is no standardised toll free access number to call emergency medical help.

iii. Non availability of appropriate and safe transport for injured patient in the form of road ambulances, air                      ambulances etc.

iv. The ambulances are inappropriately / inadequately equipped.

v. There is lack of awareness regarding Hon’ble Supreme Court of

vi. India’s directives regarding the right to emergency care for RTA victims and the legal protection available to good      samaritans who offer help to a victim of a road accident.

vii. There is no provision to ensure adequate compensation to an RTA victim in case the accident causing vehicle               does not have a third party insurance.

viii. Majority of the drivers do not have a personal mediclaim policy to cater to their emergency medical needs in                case of an accident.

Simply stated, the judgment gives the much-needed ‘push’ to justice in this field. But then, the courts can only do so much. In fact, the courts have (and welcomingly) stepped further than their traditional role in order to provide justice to the accident victims.

  1. It is, nevertheless, felt that a simplified version of the operative part of the judgment on this score (not exceeding 300 words and as bullet points) translated into many languages ought to be made available for public distribution till the Government takes action and produces scientifically designed literature. be contd. Next Topic The Government Schemes and effort