Saha claim upheld

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By OUR BUREAU in Calcutta
  • Published 8.08.09

New Delhi/Calcutta, Aug. 7: The Supreme Court has upheld the acquittal of three doctors from the charge of criminal negligence causing the death of Anuradha Saha but accepted the right of her husband, Kunal, to seek compensation.

It today also awarded legal costs to be paid to Kunal Saha by the hospital, AMRI, of Rs 5 lakh and by one of the doctors, Sukumar Mukherjee, of Rs 1 lakh.

The two-judge bench said Saha would be entitled to compensation by way of tortuous liability for his loss, mental trauma, etc. The compensation to be paid by the hospital and the doctors individually and severally will be decided by the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, where Saha has claimed Rs 77.7 crore as damages.

The Supreme Court upheld the Calcutta High Court judgment acquitting the doctors on the ground that they had no “mens rea (intention) of being rash and negligent”.

The upholding of Saha’s compensation claim and the award of costs are being seen in the legal community as acknowledgement by the court of deficiency in the medical service given to Anuradha Saha.

But since a copy of the judgment is not available yet, it is not known what language the judges have used in the order.

Anuradha Saha was diagnosed with toxic epidermal necrolysis and died in 1998 at the age of 36 following complications from an alleged steroid overdose. Kunal Saha registered a criminal case against three doctors alleging medical negligence.

The trial court let off one, Dr Abani Roy Choudhury, and Calcutta High Court the two others, Dr Mukherjee and Dr Baidyanath Halder, in 2004.

“For the purpose of establishing rash and/or negligent act on the part of the doctor, it is required to be proved that the patient was kept under the direct control and observation of a particular doctor or a group of doctors,” the high court had then said.

Kunal Saha then approached the Supreme Court.

In the national consumer commission, AMRI and all five doctors who were part of the team attending to Anuradha Saha are parties to the case.

The court suggested that the commission could be assisted by a foreign expert in determining the compensation.

Saha said: “Millions of people can take heart that their complaints against erring members of the medical fraternity would be heard.”