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case laws under article 21

In Pt. Paramanand Katara vs. Union of India & Ors., 1989 (4) SCC 286. this Court in the context of medico-legal cases. has emphasized the need for rendering immediate medical aid to injured persons to preserve life and the obligations of the State as well as doctors in that regard. This petition filed under Article 32 of the Constitution raises this issue in the context of availability of facilities in Government-hospitals for treatment of persons sustaining serious injuries.

Supreme Court of India

Paschim Banga Khet Mazdoorsamity ... vs State Of West Bengal & Anr on 6 May, 1996

During the pendency of this writ petition in this Court the State Government decided to make a complete and thorough investigation of the incident and take suitable departmental action against the persons responsible for the same and to take suitable remedial measures in order to prevent recurrence of similar incidents. The State Government appointed an Enquiry Committee headed by Shri Justice Lilamoy Ghose, a retired Judge of the Calcutta High Court. The terms and reference of the said Committee were :

"A. Enquiry into the circumstances under which the said Shri Hakim Seikh was denied admission to the State Government hospitals.

B. Fixing responsibilities for dereliction of duties if any, on the part of any Government official in this respect.

C. Recommendations on actions against the Government officials who have found wanting in the discharge of their official duties in this respect.

D. Recommendations on actions that should be taken by the State Government to rule out the recurrence of such incident in future and to ensure immediate medical attention and treatment to patients in real need."

The Committee submitted its report dated March 21, 1995. In the said report, the Committee, after examining the relevant record at the various hospitals, has found :

i) The Primary Health Centre at Mathurapur was not very much equipped to deal with such types of serious patients and the nurses at the Centre attended on Hakim Seikh and gave some treatment.

ii) At the N.R.S. Medical College Hospital Hakim Seikh was registered, Registration No. 63649, but no time was mentioned. The admission register of the said hospital shows that one patient was admitted at 12.15 A.M. on July 9, 1992 and another patient was admitted at 4.20 A.M. on July 9, 1992. There could not have been any discharge during the odd hours i.e. between the time when Hakim Seikh was taken to the said hospital and 4.20 A.M. on July 9, 1992. If two other patients were admitted after Hakim Seikh was taken there and it was not understandable why Hakim Seikh was not admitted since it is not disputed that the condition of Hakim Seikh was grave. Even in excess of the sanctioned beds some patients were kept on the trolley beds in the morning and that even if it was dangerous to keep a patient with head injuries on trolley bed he could very well be kept for the time being on the floor and could be transferred to the cold ward, as the situation demanded, temporarily. The Emergency Medical Officer concerned should have taken some measure to admit Hakim Seikh and he is, therefore, responsible for his non-admission in the said Hospital. The Superintendent of the hospital should have taken some measures to give guidelines to the respective medical officers so that a patient is not refused admission although his condition is grave and the Superintendent of the N.R.S. Medical College is also, to some extent, responsible in a general way.

(iii) Hakim Seikh should not have been refused admission in the Medical College Hospital, Calcutta when the condition was so grave. In not accommodating Hakim Seikh the Emergency medical Officer of the said Hospital is responsible. He should have contacted the superior authority over the telephone if there was any stringency as to the beds available and admit the patient inspite of total sanctioned beds not having been available. The Superintendent should have given guidelines to the respective medical officers for admitting serious cases under any circumstances and thus in a way the Superintendent was responsible for this general administration.

(iv) At the National Medical College Hospital, Calcutta the relevant admission register was missing and in the absence of the same the responsibility could not be fixed on the Emergency Medical Officer concerned. The then Superintendent of the Hospital must be held responsible for this general state of affairs that no provision was made for admitting any patient even if his condition was serious.

(v) The hospital authorities have submitted that Hakim Seikh did not attend the Shambhu Nath Pandit Hospital at all. From the out-door patient ticket it cannot be definitely Said that Hakim Seikh was taken to the said Hospital.

(vi) No responsibility could be fixed on any officer of the Bangur Institute of Neurology because the said Institute does not deal with neuro-surgery emergency cases and it is meant for cold cases only.

(vii) At SSKM Hospital, no record is maintained as to the condition of the patient and the steps taken with regard to his treatment. It is necessary that such record is maintained. Even though the patients inside the ward were in excess of the limit of the sanctioned beds but still some arrangements could be made and admission should not have been refused when the condition was so grave. The Emergency Medical Officer who attended Hakim Seikh should be held responsible for not admitting the patient in the said Hospital and that the Surgeon Superintendent is also in a general way responsible for this unhappy state of affairs and he should have given specific guidelines in that regard.

The Committee has suggested remedial measures to rule out recurrence of such incidents in future and to ensure immediate medical attention and treatment to patients in real need. We will advert to it later. We will first examine whether the failure to provide medical treatment to Hakim Seikh by the Government hospitals in Calcutta has resulted in violation of his rights and, if so, to what relief he is entitled.

The Constitution envisages the establishment of a welfare state at the federal level as well as at the state level. In a welfare state the primary duty of the Government is to secure the welfare of the people. Providing adequate medical facilities for the people is an essen