A.U. Sukumaran Vs.
N.S.D. Raju & Ors.  INSC 25 (9 January 2009)
JURISDICTION CIVIL APPEAL NO.64 OF 2009 (Arising out of S.L.P. (C) No.3146 of
2007) A.U. Sukumaran ...Appellant(s) Versus N.S.D. Raju and Ors.
...Respondent(s) O R D E R Leave granted.
appellant-complainant filed a petition before the Kerala State Consumer
Disputes Redressal Commission (for short, `the State Commission') for award of
compensation to the tune of Rs.13,96,500/- by alleging that due to negligence
of the respondent-Cochin Hospital and doctors, he had lost vision in one eye
and was forced to seek voluntary retirement from service. He claimed
Rs.13,000/- as cost of treatment, Rs.7,500/- towards transportation charges,
Rs.4,32,000/- as loss of income due to voluntary retirement, Rs.1,44,000/-
which he would have earned by continuing in service, Rs.2,00,000/- by way of
damages for pain and suffering, Rs.5,00,000/- by way of damages for mental
agony to himself, wife and children and Rs.1,00,000/- as damages for
disfigurement. Respondent Nos.1 to 3 contested the complaint by asserting that
it was not a case of medical negligence and that the claim made by the
appellant was exorbitant.
....2/- -2- The
State Commission, after considering the pleadings of the parties and record
produced by them, held that the doctors who performed the surgery are not
guilty of negligence and the loss of vision may have been caused due to
infection. In the opinion of the State Commission, the hospital authorities may
have been negligent in maintaining hygiene and this may have led to infection.
The State Commission then observed that the complainant has not been able to
prove that he suffered any pecuniary loss and awarded Rs.40,000/- as
compensation, Rs.5,000/- towards expenditure and Rs.1,000/- by way of cost. On
appeal, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (for short, the
National Commission') criticized the observation of the State Commission that
the complainant could not prove that he had suffered pecuniary loss and
observed that loss of one eye for the entire life was an extremely serious
matter which deserved a more sensitive approach by the State Commission. The
National Commission held that the appellant has suffered due to gross
negligence of the hospital authorities and enhanced the compensation from
Rs.40,000/- to Rs.1,00,000/- and cost of treatment from Rs.5,000/- to
Rs.13,000/-. The National Commission directed that the amount be paid to the
appellant-complainant within six weeks, failing which he shall be entitled to
interest at the rate of nine per cent per annum. Feeling dissatisfied, the
complainant has filed this appeal by special leave.
We have heard learned
counsel for the parties. Undisputedly, the appellant suffered loss of vision in
one eye due to negligence of the hospital authorities to maintain ....3/- -3-
hygiene, which led to infection. This finding of the State Commission was not
challenged by the respondents before the National Commission and, therefore,
the same will be deemed to have become final. The disability suffered by the
appellant is of permanent nature. The appellant, who was in government service,
was forced to take pre-mature retirement nine years before the date of
superannuation apparently because he could not effectively discharge his
duties. At the relevant time his salary was Rs.6400/-. On retirement, the
appellant was given pension at the rate of Rs.2500/- per month. Thus, the
difference in salary and retirement benefit was Rs.3,900/- per month. After
taking into consideration the expected increase in salary, the appellant
claimed compensation of Rs.4,32,000/- in lieu of the loss of salary. The
respondents have not disputed the fact that the appellant had sought voluntary
retirement and consequently, he suffered pecuniary loss. The State Commission
awarded paltry amount of Rs.40,000/- without even considering the appellant's
plea that he was forced to seek voluntary retirement nine years before the age
of superannuation. The National Commission did enhance the compensation to
Rs.1,00,000/- but without adverting to the pecuniary loss suffered by the
appellant due to pre-mature retirement from service. In our considered view,
the monetary loss suffered by the appellant furnishes valid basis for award of
enhanced compensation to him.
appeal is allowed in part with costs, impugned order is modified and the
management of Cochin Hospital is directed to pay enhanced compensation of
Rs.4,32,000/- to the appellant in addition to enhanced cost of treatment i.e.
Rs.13,000/-. The appellant shall get cost of litigation which is assessed at Rs.50,000/-.
The entire ....4/- -4- amount shall be paid to the appellant within three
months from the date of receipt of copy of this order, failing which the
hospital authority shall be liable to pay interest at the rate of twelve per
cent per annum with effect from the date of this order till the date of actual
payment. The Management shall be entitled to deduct the amount, if any, already
paid to the appellant pursuant to the orders of the State and/or National