Singh Vs. Healing Touch Hospital & Ors  INSC 487 (20 September 2000)
M.B.Shah Dr. A.S.Anand, CJI:
This appeal under Section 23 of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 is directed
against an order of the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, New
Delhi (hereinafter the "National Consumer Forum") dated 9th August,
1999 dismissing a complaint filed by the appellant, without expressing any
opinion on the merits of the case, but granting liberty to the appellant to
"make a realistic claim" and move the State Commission or the
District Forum, as the case may be in accordance with law. The National
Consumer Forum 1 further directed that time spent before it, should be taken
into account for purpose of computing period of limitation by the appropriate
forum where the appellant moves his complaint, With a view to dispose of this
appeal, we would refer only to minimal relevant facts as emerge from the record
before us. In 1993, according to the appellant, he went to the Healing Touch Hospital, respondent No.l for treatment of
stomachache and burning sensation while passing urine. He was examined by
respondent No.2, Dr. A.J.S.
who admitted him in respondent No.l hospital on 12.1.1993 for an operation for
removal of "stone from the Urethra". At the time of operation, it was
Sunil Seth, who administered spinal anesthesia to the appellant. Operation was
performed. Certain complications, according to the appellant, arose on account
of negligence of respondent No.l hospital and its team of doctors, both in the
administration of spinal anesthesia and performing the operation. According to
the appellant, he was paralysed on the right hand side of his body. He
complained and was prescribed some medicines and discharged from the hospital.
Despite taking the prescribed medicines, there was no improvement. He a!so
started passing blood along with urine. On 1st February, 1993, the appellant again went to respondent
No. 1 hospital and met respondent No. 2, Dr.
who once again admitted him to the hospital. On 9th of February, 1993, the
appellant was advised to undergo another operation to stop passing blood with
urine. The appellant claims that he was taken to the operation theatre and
after administering anesthesia to him, when he was in a drowsy state, respondents
No. 2 and 3, obtained his signatures on some papers. On 10.2.1993, after the
appellant regained consciousness, respondents No.2 and 3 told him that he would
be discharged from the hospital within a couple of days. The tht side of his
body was, however, still paralytic and he complained about it to the doctors at
the hospital. According to the appellant, on 18,2.1993, he was discharged from
respondent No.l hospital In the same paralytic condition. He was prescribed
some medicines which he kept on taking. Since, paralytic condition continued,
the appellant went back to respondent No.l hospitai where respondent No.2 asked
him to 'go away' and not to return to the hospital ever again. Appellant claims
that, he, thereafter went to Medical Diagnostic Centre, Hauz Khas, New Delhi. On examination of his discharge
slip and after undertaking certain other tests, the appellant was told by the
Diagnostic Centre, that his left kidney had been removed. The appeilant was
shocked to hear this and went to respondent No. 3 in the hospital, who told him
to meet respondents No.2 and 4. He asked them how they had removed his left
kidney during the second operation without his knowledge or consent. No body
was willing to talk to him in the hospital and he was made to go from one
doctor to another. Finally, he was turned away from the hospital without
providing any explanation. According to the appellant, as a result of the
negligence of doctors at respondent No.l hospital, he has become disabled and
handicapped with his right side being paralysed, for which has to use crutches.
His kidney has also been 'legally' removed. He states that, as a result, he
also lost his job with M/s. Durga Lakshmi Builders where he was serving prior
to his operation. He states that he had to spend a fortune for paying the
exorbitant bills of the doctors and the hospital besides medicines, tests and
for his upkeep. The appellant, thereupon, filed a complaint in the National
Consumer Forum and claimed Rs. 34 lakhs by way of compensation from the
respondents in 1993 on various grounds, under different heads.
respondents were put to notice. They filed their counter statements and
replies, to which the appellant also filed his rejoinder. While the matters
rested thus, the National Consumer Forum passed the impugned order referred to
above, six years after the complaint was filed, on 9th August, 1999. Hence this appeal. The appellant appeared in person before
us in this appeal and the Court issued notice.
appeared to the Court that on account of his disabilities and handicap, the
appellant was not in a position to properly assist the Court. We, therefore,
Jaising, learned senior counsel, who was present in Court, to appear as amicus curiee,
which she readily agreed.
have heard learned counsel for the parties. The impugned order of the National
Consumer Forum is very brief. While dismissing the complaint and relegating the
appellant to approach either the District Forum or the State Commission, the
National Consumer Forum inter alia observed: "...The Complainant was
drawing a salary of Rs.3,000/- plus allowances. This is his allegation which is
not admitted by the Opposite Party. Even if we accept this contention is
correct and even if we accept that as a result of wrong treatment qiven in the
Hospital he has suffered permanent disability_the claim,of Rs 34_lakhs made bv
the Cnmplainnan is excessive. We are of the view that this exaggerated claim
has been made only for the purpose of invoking the jurisdiction of this
Commission..." (Emphasis ours) The National Consumer Forum, in our option,
was not fair in disposing of the complaint of the appellant by styling his claim
as "excessive" or "exaggerated", sfier six years of the pendency
of the compiaint, and asking the appellant to move the State Commissjon or the
District Forum by making "a realistic claim" Whether the claim of the
appellant was "realistic", "exaggerated" or "excessive",
could only have been determined after the appellant had been given an
opportunity to prove the case he had set up and established his claim under
various heads. It was not fair to call his claim "unrealtetic",
"exaggerated" or "excessive" without giving the appellant
an opportunity to substantiate his case. ' Ms. Indira Jaising, learned Amicus,
submitted that according to the appellant he had suffered paralysis on the
right side and had also become permanently disabled and his one kidney had been
illegally removed. The appellant had on that account suffered pain and
suffering. He had aiso undergone heavy expenditure for his.
upkeep, medicines etc. He had lost his job. Learned counsel submitted that the
appellant should have been given an opportunity to substantiate his claim and
the National Consumer Forum was not justified to observe that the claim put
forward by the appellant was "unrealistic", "exaggerated"
or "excessive" after referring to the salary of the appellant only.
According to Ms. Jai Singh, the National Consumer Forum, was not right in
scuttling an enquiry into the claim of the appellant, in limine' after keeping
him waiting for six long years.
to her, the impugned order rotates the spirit with which the Consumer Protection
Act was enacted. Learned counsel for the respondents, however, submitted that
the claim of the appellant was "exaggerated" and
"excessive" and the Forum rightly rejected it, without giving any
finding on merits so as not to prejudice the case of the appellant before the
District Forum or the State Commission. After hearing learned counsel for the
parties and perusing the record, we are constrained to say that we are not
happy with the manner in which the complaint of the appellant has been disposed
Protection Act is one of the benevolent pieces of legislation intended to
protect a large body of consumers from exploitation. The Act provides for an
alternative system of consumer justice by summary trial.
authorities under the Act quasi judicial powers for redressal of consumer disputea
and it is one of the postulates of such a body that it arrive at a conclusion
on reason. The necessity to provide reasons, howsoever, brief in support of its
conclusion by such a forum, is too obvious to be reiterated and needs no emphasising.
Obligation to give reasons not only introduces clrity but it also excludes, or
at any rate minimizes, the chances of arbitrariness and the higher forum can
test the correctness of those reasons. Unfortunately we have not been .able to
find from the impugned order any reasons in support of the conclusion that the
claim of the appellant is "unrealistic" or "exaggerated" or
"excessive". Loss of salary is not the sole factor which was required
to be taken into consideration. While quantifying damages, consumer forums are
required to make an attempt to serve ends of justice so that compensation is
awarded, in an established case, which not only serves the purpose of
recompensing the individual, but which also at the same time, aims to bring
about a qualitative change in the attitude of the service provider. Indeed,
calculation of damages depends on the facts and circumstances of each case.
hard and fast rule can be laid down for universal application. While swarding
compensation, a Consumer Forum has to take into account all relevant faacors ana
assess compensation on the basis of accepted legal principles, on moderation.
It is for the Consumer Forum to grant compensation to the extent it finds it
reasonable, fair and proper in the facts and circumstances of a given case
according to established judicial standards where the claimant is able to
establish his charge. It is not merely the alleged harm or mental pain, agony
or physical discomfort, loss of salary and emoluments etc. suffered by the
appellant which is in issue - it is also the quality of conduct committed by
the respondents upon which attention is required to be founded in a case of
proven negligence. it must be remembered that National Consumer Forum has
jurisdiction, without pecuniary limitations, to award proper compensation.,
even less than the one claimed in a given case, depending upon the established
facts and circumstances of that particular case and the evidence led by the parti'es.
District Commission and the State Forum, on the other hand, have pecuniary
jurisdictional limitations for granting compersation beyond their jurisdictionai
limits. Under Section 11(1) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, the District
Forum has junsdiction to entertain complaints where the value of the goods or
services and compensation, if any, claimed does not exceed Rs.5 lakhs. Section
17(a) of the Act provides that State Commission shall have jurisdiction to
entertain complaints where the value of goods or services and compensation, if
any, claimed exceeds Rs.5 lakhs, but does not exceed Rs.20 lakhs. In view of
these jurisdictionai limitations of the District Forum and the State
Commission, these bodies would not be able to award compensation, even if
satisfied in a given case that the complainant was entitled to more
compensation than what he had claimed, beyond their pecuniary jurisdiction.
That apart, in the present case, complaint petition filed by the appellant for
compensation was pending before the National Consumer Forum for six long years.
The pleadings had been completed. The National Consumer Forum should have taken
the complaint to its logical conclusion by asking the parties to adduce
evidence and rendered its findings on merits. A mathematical calculation based
only on the amount of salary being drawn by the appellant couid not be the soie
factor to be into consideration to style the claim of the appellant
"unrealistic" or "exaggerated" or "excessive".
The appellant has virtually condemned unheard after waiting for six long years.
The legislative intent, for enacting the legislation, of a speedy summary
trial, to settle the claim of the complainant (consumers) has been respected in
its breach. The spirit of the benevolent legislation has been overlooked and its
object frustrated by non-suiting the appellant in the manner in v^hich it has
been done by the National Consumer Forum. The consumer forums must take
expeditious steps to deal with the complaints fited before them and not keep
them pending for years. It would defeat the object of the Act if summary trials
are not disposed of expeditiously by the forums at the District, State or
National levels. Steps in this direction are required to be taken in the right
earnest. We, therefore, accept this appeal, set aside the impugned order of the
National Consumer Forum and remand the complaint filed by the appellant to the
National Consumer Forum for its disposal in accordance with law.
clarify that what we have said above shall not be construed as any expression
of opinion on the merits of the case, or the rights of the parties. The
complaint shaft be decided on its own merits in accordance with law. We request
the National Consumer Forum to dispose of the complaint of the appellant
expeditiously. Before parting with this order, we wish to place on record our
appreciation for the assistance rendered by learned Amicus, Ms. Indira Jaising.