DATE OF JUDGEMENT:
6th August 2021
Justice AM Khanwilkar
Justice Sanjiv Khanna
Prabhat Kumar Singh……………….. (Appellant)
The State of Bihar and Ors.........………….. (Respondent)
The Supreme Court observed that mens rea as the intent is not required in a case of medical negligence.
- In this case, the complainant filed a medical negligence complaint under section 304, 316/34 of the Indian Penal Code,1860.
- The Trial Court issued summons to the accused.
- Challenging the summons order, the accused approached the High Court, which then quashed it, on the groundS that there was no evidence regarding mens rea to show malicious or bad intent.
Indian Penal Code,1860
• Section 304: Punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder
Whoever commits culpable homicide not amounting to murder shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine, if the act by which the death is caused is done to cause death, or of causing such bodily injury as is likely to cause death, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, or with fine, or with both, if the act is done with the knowledge that it is likely to cause death, but without any intention to cause death, or to cause such bodily injury as is likely to cause death.
• Section 316: Causing the death of a quick unborn child by act amounting to culpable homicide. The woman is injured but does not die, but the death of an unborn quick child with which she is pregnant is thereby caused.
• Section 34: Acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention. When a criminal act is done by several persons in furtherance of the common intention of all, each of such persons is liable for that act in the same manner as if it were done by him alone.
- Whether without the credible opinion of a professional doctor or insisting medical evidence passed a summoning order, would prejudice the accused?
ANALYSIS OF THE JUDGEMENT
- The bench has observed that in a case of medical negligence, the mens rea as the intent is not required.
- The court cited the judgement of Jacob Mathew v. The State of Punjab [(2005) 6 SCC 1], where the Supreme Court had laid down guidelines regarding the prosecution of doctors for offences of which criminal rashness or criminal negligence is an ingredient.
- One of the guidelines is that: “a private complaint may not be entertained unless the complainant has produced prima facie evidence before the court in the form of a credible opinion given by another competent doctor to support the charge of rashness or negligence on the part of the accused doctor”.
- Firstly, the bench observed that the decision of the High Court was erroneous and said that when there is a case of medical negligence, it need not be because of mens rea as intent. Sans mens rea would also constitute medical negligence.
- In addition to that, the bench noticed that the Trial court, without insisting on medical evidence or examination of a professional doctor to support the complaint, had arbitrarily passed the summoning order.
- Therefore, the bench had set aside both the orders of the High Court and the Trial Court and relegated the parties before the Trial Court for reconsideration of the issue afresh.
The Supreme Court made it clear that the Trial Court may have to call upon the complainant to first examine the professional Doctors as a witness, in support of the case made out in the complaint and then proceed to consider the matter afresh on its own merits and in accordance with the law.
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