Gujrat: In yet another judgement throwing light on the issue of the rise of criminal negligence in medico-legal cases, the Gujrat High Court recently struck down clauses of IPC 304 ( Culpable Homicide ) against 2 medical practitioners
The order came as a major relief to two gynaecologists who were booked under section 304 IPC -culpable homicide after the death of a patient during caesarian. The Gujrat High court struck down the clause of IPC 304, clearly stating that at the maximum doctors can be booked under IPC 304A.
The incident for the case goes back to year July 2016 when the patient delivered a girl, under the care of Doctors Sejal and Jigar Mehta at the Vatsalya Nursing Home. However,the patient complained of severe abdominal pain after the delivery, post which she was referred to GMERS Hospital where she died on July 16.
The doctors were booked under Section 304 of the IPC after the postmortem report confirmed that she died due to shock and haemorrhage as cause of death due to complications in surgery. When the police filed a charge sheet against the doctors, they knocked on the doors of the high court for relief
After going through the facts, the bench of Justice J B Pardiwala questioned how police came to know there was negligence on part of doctors during the surgery only on basis of the postmortem and without obtaining any expert opinion. the court observed
There is no evidence to show that the doctors acted in a rash and negligent manner. There is no question of considering it as culpable homicide, and at the most it could be a case of negligence under section 304A of the IPC
The HC cited sections 80, 81, 88, 92 and 93 of IPC and said that the law ensures that doctors are not punished unnecessarily. The bench then directed the investigator to obtain more evidence including expert opinion and then place the report before Magisterial Court for further decisions.
On the side, reports TOI the hon. judge was also seen making a observations about the increase in commercialisation in medical practice and the and the changed doctor-patient relationship, which leads to increase in prosecution against doctors in recent times.
In unfavourable results of treatment, patient suspects negligence on part of the doctor as a cause of suffering, the court observed.
The HC observed that medical professionals are duly protected if their action is in good faith. “The criminal law has invariably placed medical professionals on a pedestal different from ordinary mortals,” the order read.
The Judgement is in line with numerous past orders on the issue of the applicability of IPC section 304 for medical practitioners. Medical Dialogues team had earlier reported that in a similar case whose judgement came out in February 2017, while deciding the applicability of section 304 part-II, it was observed that culpable homicide’ as defined in section 299 of the Indian Penal Code, the death must be caused by doing an act: (a) with the intention of causing death, or (b) with the intention of causing such bodily injury as is likely to cause death, or (c) with the knowledge that the doer is likely by such act to cause death.
The Odisha High Court in the said matter discussed the Sec.304-A of IPC which carves out a specific offence where death is caused by doing a rash or negligent act and that act does not amount to culpable homicide. The court while removing 304 IPC had then proceeded against the medical practitioners under IPC 304A