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Section 304, IPC: Causing death by negligence

Shreya Saxena ,
  11 May 2020       Share Bookmark

Court :
Supreme Court of India
Brief :
It was opined that after examining all the medical papers accompanying the complaint, it was found that no case of recklessness or gross negligence had been made out against the doctor to compel him to face the trial for offence under section 304A of the IPC. As a result of the discussion aforesaid on the factual and legal aspect, the court allowed this appeal and by setting aside the impugned orders of the Magistrate and of the High Court, quashed the criminal proceedings pending against the present doctor who wasaccused and appellate before the hon’ble court.
Citation :
Appellant: Ashok H. Desai, Aloke Kumar Sengupta, Ms.Sushma Sharma, Meghalee Barthakur, Mrinal Kanti Mandal, Ms.Anindita Sengupta, RajanNarain and Suraj Prakash Respondent: Harish Chandra, S. Wasim A. Qadri, Vineet Malhotra, Mrs. Anil Katiyar and Nikilesh Ramachandran.

Dr. Suresh Gupta vs Govt.Of N.C.T. Of Delhi & Anr

  • Bench: Hon'ble Mr. Justice Y.K. Sabharwal, Hon'ble Mr. Justice D.M. Dharmadhikari
  • Appellant: Ashok H. Desai, Aloke Kumar Sengupta, Ms.Sushma Sharma, Meghalee Barthakur, Mrinal Kanti Mandal, Ms.Anindita Sengupta, RajanNarain and Suraj Prakash
  • Respondent: Harish Chandra, S. Wasim A. Qadri, Vineet Malhotra, Mrs. Anil Katiyar and Nikilesh Ramachandran.

Facts of the case:

The patient in this case was a young man with no history of any heart ailment. An operation had to be performed for nasal deformity which was by no standard complicated or serious, so much so that even his wife did not accompany him to the hospital for this operation. The patient however died due to post operational complications. The cause of death according to the medical opinion was stated to be ‘not introducing a cuffed endotracheal tube of proper size as to prevent aspiration of blood from the wound in the respiratory passage’.

The appellant who was a Doctor (Plastic Surgeon) was accused over the charge under Section 304 A of the Indian Penal Code for causing death of the aforementioned patient. The patient was operated by him for removing is nasal deformity. It was mentioned at the outset, that the Anaesthetistwho was assisting the surgeon in the operation was also made co-accused but it was reported that he died while the trial was pending. The proceedings, therefore, stood abated against him. The appellant urged before the Magistrate that the medical evidence produced by the prosecution, did not make out any case against him to proceed with the trial. The learned magistrate however decided to proceed with the trial. It was clear from the records that patient had actually died at the clinic of the accused and therefore, I am of the opinion that there are sufficient grounds on record to make out a prima facie case against both the accused for commission of offence under Section 304A IPC.As the Magistrate decided to proceed with the trial, the doctor approached the High Court by petition under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. The High Court refused to quash the criminal proceedings and upheld the order of the Magistrate, although it recorded that the Metropolitan Magistrate was obviously wrong, in the absence of any medical opinion, in coming to a conclusion that the surgeon had given a cut at wrong place of the body of the patient at the time of operation leading to blood seeping into the respiratory passage and blocking it resulting in his death. The High Court, however, declined to quash the proceedings against the doctor for the alleged criminal liability.

Judgement:

The Supreme Court in the final appellate judgement stated that; “Blame is a powerful weapon. When used appropriately and according to morally defensible criteria, it has an indispensable role in human affairs. Its inappropriate use, however, distorts tolerant and constructive relations between people. Some of life's misfortunes are accidents for which nobody is morally responsible. Others are wrongs for which responsibility is diffuse. Yet others are instances of culpable conduct, and constitute grounds for compensation and at times, for punishment. Distinguishing between these various categories requires careful, morally sensitive and scientifically informed analysis."

Therefore it was opined that after examining all the medical papers accompanying the complaint, it was found that no case of recklessness or gross negligence had been made out against the doctor to compel him to face the trial for offence under section 304A of the IPC. As a result of the discussion aforesaid on the factual and legal aspect, the court allowed this appeal and by setting aside the impugned orders of the Magistrate and of the High Court, quashed the criminal proceedings pending against the present doctor who wasaccused and appellate before the hon’ble court.

 
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