Civil Writ Petition No. 822/2013; decided by the Hon’ble Rajasthan High Court on December 22, 2016.
Facts: One Ajeet Singh Singhvi made a complaint to RMC on 17-5-2000, alleging misconduct on the part of the petitioner and two other doctors of Sawai Man Singh Medical College and Hospital, Jaipur resulting in the death of his mother Jatan Kanwar Singhvi on 28-4-2000 who was admitted to the unit of Dr. S.K. Pareek, Professor and Head of the Nephrology department of the SMS Hospital in the night intervening 25 and 26-2-2000 and during her treatment the patient was transferred to the unit of Dr. D.S. Mathur, Professor of Medicine; was then referred to Dr. D.K. Jindal, and thereafter to the petitioner Dr. T.C. Sadasukhi, who performed a surgical aspiration of the Hydatid Cyst on the patient. The case of the complainant was that the procedure/ operation performed by the petitioner was without the consent either of the patient or any of her family members and it was also indicative of reckless medical negligence, consequent to which his mother expired. The complainant on his allegations sought action against Dr. D.K. Jindal, Dr. D.S. Mathur and the petitioner for medical negligence. The said complaint was considered by a three member committee of the RMC on 20-5-2000 which found no negligence on the part of the petitioner and other doctors who treated the complainant’s mother. The complainant again made another complaint for the same incident of 3-4-2000 on 11-10-2000. As the complaint was pending before the RMC for over six years, the complainant on 12-7-2007 sought transfer of the enquiry into the medical negligence alleged by him from the RMC to MCI, relatable to clause 8.7 of the Regulations of 2002. A follow up letter was also sent by the complainant to the MCI. In the meantime, the complaint to the RMC was decided by it on 26-10-2007 holding that no prima facie case was made out against the petitioner and two other doctors, Dinesh Jindal and D.S. Mathur for their alleged medical negligence. The complaint was dropped. No appeal against the RMC’s order dated 26-10-2007 under clause 8.8 of the Regulations of 2002 was filed. The MCI, however, appears to have seized the transfer application referable to clause 8.7 of the Regulations of 2002 as an appeal against the RMC’s order dated 26-10-2007 under clause 8.8 of the Regulations of 2002. It directed the Principal, SMS Medical College, Jaipur to arrange for an enquiry into the matter and send the report received thereupon to its Ethics Committee. The Principal, SMS Medical College, Jaipur constituted a Committee of five doctors of the SMS Medical College, Jaipur. Vide its report dated 30-8-2011 the Committee constituted by the Principal, SMS Medical College, Jaipur exonerated all doctors including the petitioner of the alleged medical negligence and held that the allegation of lack of consent by the petitioner for undertaking the surgical procedure of the late Jatan Kanwar Singhvi on 3-4-2000 appeared to be an outcome of miscommunication. The report of the enquiry dated 30-8-2011 was forwarded to the Ethics Committee of the MCI on 1-9-2011. The petitioner’s case is that the Ethics Committee of the MCI in its meeting some time between 23-8-2011 and 1-12-2011 took a decision that no further action was required against the petitioner and two other doctors for their alleged negligence in treatment of complainant’s mother as none was made out. However the Ethics Committee of the MCI appears to have again met on 1-12-2012 and taken up the matter afresh. On 17-7-2012, the Ethics Committee noted that one of its members would look at the issue of medical negligence in the treatment of the complainant’s mother and thereafter proceed further. No report of the in-depth study by a doctor pursuant to Ethics Committee’s decision on 17-7-2012 has been averred to in the reply/ affidavit of the MCI or placed on record. However, the Ethics Committee on 27-10-2012 concluded that the petitioner was guilty of medical negligence for two lapses while treating Jatan Kanwar Singhvi, the mother of the complainant, i.e. (i) no proper informed consent was taken; and (ii) did not carry out adequate investigation and assessment of the patient as were required, to arrive at appropriate diagnosis. In the circumstances it concluded that the petitioner was guilty of contravention of clause 7.16 of the Regulations of 2002 and deserved to be visited with a penalty of removal of his name from the register of MCI as well as that of RMC for a period of eighteen months. The Board of Governors of MCI approved the aforesaid decision on 10-12-2012. The impugned order dated 10-1-2013 was then passed by the MCI and under its direction the RMC followed up with the impugned order dated 16- 1-2013.
Observations: It is not in dispute that the complaint was first laid against the petitioner on 17-5-2000. That was considered by a three member committee of the RMC on 20-5-2000 which found no negligence on the part of the petitioner and other doctors who treated the complainant’s mother. A complaint was again made on or about 11-10-2000. It is no doubt true that the said complaint was kept pending by the RMC for several years, consequent to which the complainant was left with no option except to approach the MCI by filing a transfer application on 12-7-2007 for transfer to MCI from RMC of the complaint filed by him against the petitioner and other doctors. This was followed up by letter/ reminder dated 13-9-2007. Nothing substantial appears to have been done by the MCI on aforesaid request for transfer of the complaint to itself. Then on 26-10-2007 the RMC considering the complaint found no prima facie case of professional misconduct/ negligence against the petitioner and two other doctors leading to death of Smt. Jatan Kanwar Singhvi. Clause 8.8 of the Regulations of 2002 provides for the manner of laying an appeal against an order of the State Medical Council on any complaint against a delinquent doctor. The appeal has to be filed within a period of sixty days from the order of the State Medical Council. No appeal appears to have been filed against RMC’s order dated 26-10-2007 by the complainant in the manner as provided under clause 8.8 of the Regulations of 2002. Yet oddly, ultra vires the prescribed procedure for filing an appeal under the Regulations of 2002, the MCI appears to have morphed the complainant’s then infructuous application for transfer of the matter from RMC to MCI filed on 12-7-2007 and 13-9-2007, which ought to have been rendered infructuous with the passing of the order dated 26-10- 2007 by the RMC, treated it as appeal. I am of the considered view that this could not have been done by the MCI.
Held: It is no doubt true that this court in the exercise of its extraordinary equitable jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India would loath to interfere with the findings/ conclusions of an expert body such as the MCI, for such matters are not within the court’s core competence/ domain knowledge. Yet the jurisdiction of this court under Article 226 of the Constitution of India can be exercised to address the decision making processes resorted to by the statutory body and ascertain as to whether the procedure statutorily prescribed had been adhered to religiously and whether the conclusions/ findings of fact arrived at by the expert body are not vitiated for perversity and/ or non-application of mind in overlooking relevant material on record.
The legal enunciation aforesaid is wholly relevant to the case at hand where despite no appeal having been filed against the order dated 26-10-2007 passed by the RMC exonerating the petitioner from the charge of medical negligence, the MCI has usurped jurisdiction as the appellate authority treating the evidently infructuous transfer applications as an appeal. Besides the above, the MCI appears to have exonerated the petitioner of the allegation in a meeting held between 23-8-2011 and 1-12-2011 as has been stated by the counsel for the petitioner. The denial of the said assertion by the MCI on this aspect in its reply to writ petition is rather evasive and in fact a little suspect in view of an admitted meeting of 1-11-2011 having been held. Minutes thereof are on record. A perusal/ comparison of the document recording the minutes of the meeting on 1-11-2011 as filed by the MCI vis-a-vis the minutes of a meeting filed by the petitioner as AA-1 with his additional affidavit indicates that the two documents are substantially similar in nature, except the words to the petitioner’s benefit i.e. “Now Committee resolves that no further action is required in this case and the case may be treated as closed”. Nothing has been stated by the MCI that the document filed by the petitioner as AA-1 with his additional affidavit is fabricated, and/ or a result of interpolation. All that has been stated is that in the minutes of 1-11-2011 a bona fide typographic mistake occurred in the second last para of the minutes recorded. In the circumstances, this Court is not in a position to hold that a decision of dropping the proceedings against the petitioner for the alleged medical negligence in treating the complainant’s mother Jatan Kanwar Singhvi in conducting operation/ medical procedure on 3-4-2000 was not taken. Consequently, the impugned order dated 10-1-2013 passed by the MCI as also the consequent order dated 16-1-2013 passed by the RMC striking off name of the petitioner from the Registers of Medical Practitioners for a period of eighteen months are liable to be quashed and set aside. It is ordered accordingly.
The writ petition stands allowed accordingly.