M A I N   N E W S

SC judgment on doctorsí criminal
liability for larger Bench
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, September 9
The much-debated judgment of the Supreme Court, defining "gross negligence" or "recklessness" of a doctor while treating his patient making him liable for criminal negligence, was today referred to a larger Bench by the apex court for reconsideration.

A Bench of Mr Justice Arijit Pasayat and Mr Justice C.K. Thakkar referred the judgment to a larger Bench, observing that the words "gross negligence" or "reckless" act did not fall within the definition of Section 304-A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) defining death due to an act of negligence or the culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

This would mean that the relief the doctors had got due to the judgment, would not be available to them till the larger Bench gave its opinion on the issue.

Another Bench of Mr Justice Y.K. Sabharwal and Mr Justice D.M. Dharamadhikari, earlier had ruled that the act of a doctor could be described as "criminal" only when he had exhibited a "gross lack of competence or inaction and wanton indifference" to his patient's safety during the treatment.

The Bench had further said that "where a patient's death results merely from the error of judgment or an accident (during treatment), no criminal liability should be attached to it."

In other words, the Court has held, that if a patient dies due to an error of judgment on the part of the doctor, he would not be prosecuted for a criminal act but could be sued for pecuniary damages under the civil laws.

The issue was brought back before the Court today by advocate Krishan Mahajan, while arguing a case of medical negligence against his client, a doctor. 

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