Private Complaint of Medical Negligence Dismissed by Jharkhand HC Due to Insufficient Evidence

The patient was admitted to the critical care unit (ICU) due to a urinary tract infection, according to the petitioner doctor's suggestion
The complainant filed a case against the petitioner doctor, alleging that he committed medical negligence. (Representational image: Unsplash)
The complainant filed a case against the petitioner doctor, alleging that he committed medical negligence. (Representational image: Unsplash)

The Jharkhand High Court has ruled that a private complaint alleging medical negligence against a doctor cannot be considered unless there is prima facie evidence—that is, a credible opinion from another doctor—to establish the accused doctor's wrongdoing.

The Jharkhand High Court reiterated the legal precedent set by the Supreme Court in the cases of Jacob Mathew v. State of Punjab and Martin F. D' Souza v. Md. Ishfaq, saying, "It is crystal clear that a private complaint may not be entertained unless the complainant has produced prima facie evidence in the form of credible opinion given by another doctor to support the charge of rashness or negligence on the part of the accused doctor." It seems that letting the case go forward will be equivalent to a legal process of abuse."

While examining a doctor's plea to have the criminal proceedings against him, including the decision that recognized the offense under Section 304-A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), quashed, the High Court bench made this observation.

The complainant claims that while his mother was being admitted to the Dwaraka Das Jalan Memorial Hospital, the accused doctor's gross medical negligence caused her death. The patient's admission to the treating hospital in 2011 came from her weakness and difficulty urinating. The patient was seen by the other accused junior doctors while the petitioner, (the accused doctor), treated her at the hospital.

The patient was admitted to the critical care unit (ICU) due to a urinary tract infection, according to the petitioner doctor's suggestion. The petitioner advised the patient's family that insulin would need to be given because the patient had high blood sugar and asked them to get some medication.

The complainant claims that while his mother was being admitted to the Dwaraka Das Jalan Memorial Hospital, the accused doctors gross medical negligence caused her death.(Representational image: Unsplash)
The complainant claims that while his mother was being admitted to the Dwaraka Das Jalan Memorial Hospital, the accused doctors gross medical negligence caused her death.(Representational image: Unsplash)
The complainant filed a case against the petitioner doctor, alleging that he committed medical negligence. (Representational image: Unsplash)
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However, the hospital is accused of failing to give the patient the necessary treatment, instead prescribing medications that the complainant was required to purchase from a hospital-affiliated shop. Furthermore, the complainant claims that the hospital continued to receive payments long after the patient passed away and the complainant was not informed of the cause of her death.

It was further claimed that one day the patient's older son requested a copy of the records in order to file a medical claim. Upon carefully reviewing the medical record, the complainant discovered that the patient had passed away from excessive insulin delivery. Additionally, it is said that a malfunction in the glucose testing apparatus caused an erroneous readout of the blood sugar level. Thus, the complainant filed a case against the petitioner's doctor, alleging that he committed medical negligence.

The treating physician, however, denied these claims and argued that the care was provided without medical negligence. The physician stated that he and the other doctors did their utmost to care for the patient. Still, they were unable to save the patient's life.

The HC bench took into consideration the rulings of the Supreme Court in the cases of Jacob Mathew v. State of Punjab and Martin F. D' Souza v. Md. Ishfaq. They noted that a private complaint cannot be considered unless the complainant has provided prima facie evidence, such as a reliable evaluation from another physician, to support the allegations of carelessness or negligence on the part of the accused physician.

In light of this finding, the HC bench reported,

"It appears that to allow the proceeding to continue, will amount to an abuse of the process of law."


Consequently, the High Court granted the petitioner doctor relief by dismissing the proceedings against him and noted


"Accordingly, the entire criminal proceeding including the order taking cognizance dated 14.01.2016, by which, cognizance for the offence under Section 304-A of the Indian Penal Code has been taken against the petitioner, in connection with Complaint Case no. 1201 of 2012, pending in the court of learned Judicial Magistrate, Dhanbad, are hereby, quashed."

(Input from various sources)

(Rehash/Priyanka Pandey/MSM)

The complainant filed a case against the petitioner doctor, alleging that he committed medical negligence. (Representational image: Unsplash)
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