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  • Justice N.S. Sanjay Gowda of the Karnataka HC has held that the illicit adulterous relationship of a spouse cannot be proved by summoning his/her private medical records.
  • In the instant case, a petition for the dissolution of marriage by a decree of divorce was filed by the husband. Simultaneously, proceedings for maintenance were initiated by the wife. It was the husband’s contention that the wife had indulged in illicit relationships and had become pregnant as a result.
  • It was argued that the documents of abortion which were sought by the petitioners from the hospital were necessary to prove the affairs of the wife. The Trial Court in such a situation granted leave to summon those records, relying on the fact that there was no question of the hospital authorities maintaining secrecy in respect of medical records of spouses, as the doctor- patient confidentiality exists only between the doctor and the patient and not between the hospital administration and the spouses.
  • This order was challenged by the wife before the HC stating that the medical records of the person are absolutely private to that person and the same cannot be summoned by anyone, not even the husband. It was also argued by the wife that forcing the doctor to adduce evidence and summoning the medical records would essentially mean that the doctor is being forced to violate the oath of secrecy to the patient.
  • The Court observed that the power to ask any medical practitioner to adduce evidence, essentially violating his oath, could be exercised only when an element of public interest is involved in the same. If the same power is exercised in cases like the one before the Court, then it would result in the destruction of the entire concept of doctor- patient confidentiality. In addition to this, it would also drag the doctor into a marital dispute.
  • Referring to the facts of the instant case, the Court observed that the husband has also sought divorce on the ground of desertion in addition to cruelty, by claiming that his wife had deserted him for a continuous period of two years. The Court stated that if the husband has alleged that his wife had subjected him to cruelty by being in an adulterous relationship, then he would have to prove the same by leading cogent evidence in a manner which is agreeable by law. The allegation cannot be proved by summoning private documents of the wife.
  • Due to the aforementioned reasons, the application was allowed and the order of the lower Court summoning the medical records was set aside.
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