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Negligence fine on ayurvedic doctor

New Delhi, April 6: The Supreme Court has directed an ayurvedic doctor from Rishikesh to pay Rs 15 lakh in damages to a woman whose son, who suffered occasional convulsions, began having frequent and incurable fits after taking an allopathic medicine prescribed by him.

The court hiked the Rs 2.5 lakh compensation awarded by the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission to Bhanwar Kanwar to Rs 15 lakh and asked the doctor to pay up within three months.

It held that Kanwar and her son, Prashanth, had suffered physical and mental injury because of medical negligence and unfair trade practices by the ayurvedic doctor.

Kanwar had claimed damages of Rs 30 lakh for the permanent disability her son suffered and because she was forced to terminate her pregnancy to take care of him.

Prashanth, born in May 1989, used to have fits during fever from the time he was six months old. He was initially treated by Ashok Panagariya, consultant neurologist and associate professor of neurology at SMS Medical College Hospital, Jaipur, and All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi.

Lured by a promising advertisement in the papers in August 1993, Kanwar went to Hardwar for ayurvedic treatment by R.K. Gupta, who owned Neeraj Clinic Pvt. Ltd.

The boy was under Gupta’s treatment from then till 1996 but his condition worsened and he started having fits regularly. In October 1996, Kanwar took the boy back to consultant neurologist Panagariya, who told her there was no hope of the child becoming normal.

Laboratory tests ordered by the national consumer commission revealed that the small white tablets Gupta prescribed was “Selgin” — an allopathic medicine not meant for children. Allegations that he was passing off allopathic medicines as ayurvedic were subsequently established by tests.

But the commission, while directing Gupta to pay damages, held that he could prescribe allopathic medicines under a February 2003 Uttar Pradesh government circular that said registered ayurveda and unani practitioners could do so.

However, since the boy had suffered permanent disability and the doctor had given a misleading advertisement, the commission asked him to pay the mother Rs 2.5 lakh in compensation and deposit another Rs 2.5 lakh in its legal fund.

The apex court, however, held that the treatment by Gupta pertained to the period 1994-1997. So the February 2003 circular was of no avail to the respondents as it did not exist during the treatment period.

“We hold that both Prashant and the appellant suffered physical and mental injury due to the misleading advertisement, unfair trade practice and negligence of the respondents. The appellant and Prashant thus are entitled for an enhanced compensation for the injury suffered by them,” the bench said.

It also set aside the commission’s direction to the doctor to pay Rs 2.5 lakh to its consumer legal aid account.