Kerala Hospital hands over Dead Body To Wrong Family: SC Stays NCDRC Order reducing compensation
New Delhi: The Supreme Court has put a stay on an order issued by the National Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission (NCDRC) to reduce the compensation granted to the family of a deceased patient, wherein, the dead body was sent to the wrong family allegedly by a Kerala-based hospital.
Condemning the "insensitive approach" of the NCDRC, the family of the deceased, who neither got the opportunity to see the dead body for the last time nor conduct his final rites approached the apex court against the order pronounced by the Commission in the case.
The case concerned Ernakulam Medical Centre Hospital that released the dead body of the petitioners' father, Purushothaman, who died during treatment, to the family of one Kanthy in 2009. Even before the hospital realized its mistake, Kanthy's family cremated Purushothaman's body, thus depriving the Petitioners' of seeing their father for one last time.
Aggrieved by the deficiency in service on the part of the hospital, the daughters of deceased R. Purushothaman filed a complaint before the Kerala State Commission and claimed compensation of Rs.1 crore with 18 % interest from the date of filing of the complaint.
Responding to the same, the counsel for the hospital submitted that the immediate relatives of deceased Lt.Col Kanthy mistakenly identified the dead body of R. Purushothaman (father of the petitioner) as that of their family member. Resultantly, the PRO without any doubt or ill intention released that dead body to them.
Examining the issue, the Kerala State Commission partly allowed the consumer complaint and awarding compensation of Rs. 25 Lakhs with 12 % interest from the date of complaint till realization together with a cost of Rs. 10,000.
However, opposing the decision, the hospital approached NCDRC. The apex commission observed, " The fact remains that deceased R. Purushothaman had been given pious cremation in accordance with Hindu religious rites and that the ashes been received by the children of R. Purushothaman for observing further religious rites. In our view, the complaint is totally misconceived."
It added, " The 2 of the 4 children of the deceased person have attempted to make a fortune out of the mistake committed by a stranger who bonafidely claimed the body of their deceased father. The State Commission ought to have appreciated that it is trite law that awarding of compensation should be on the basis of cogent grounds."
Subsequently, NCDRC slashed the compensation amount from Rs 25 lakh to Rs 5 lakh and also directed the hospital to pay Rs. 25 lakhs as costs to the Consumer Legal Aid account of the State Commission.
The reasoning given by the Apex Commission was that Purushothaman was cremated properly by Kanthy's relatives; and his ashes were received by the petitioners for further religious rites.
Finding the order unjust, the aggravated family members of the deceased patient moved the Supreme Court.
Senior Advocate V Chitambaresh and Advocates A Karthik (AOR), C Govind Venugopal, and Anushka Pardikar appearing for the petitioners submitted that no sufficient reasons have been provided for granting a sum of Rs 25 lakhs to the State Consumer Forum's Legal Aid Account, especially when compensation of only Rs 5 lakhs was awarded to the petitioners who were deprived of the chance of seeing their father for the last time and performing his last rites due to the negligent action of the hospital.
It further added that the amount of the compensation is unjust and inequitable as it fails to consider the gravity of mental, and physical pain, suffering, and trauma suffered by the petitioners on account of having lost the opportunity to perform the last rites of their father as it is an integral part of cremation according to Hindu ritual. Moreover, it has not been given due consideration that there was marked negligence on part of the hospital.
Further Bar and Bench reports, as per the special leave petition, the operative portion of this order was passed by the Commission in July 2019. However, the full judgment with reasons was delivered only in March 2020. "The habit of passing the operative part and reasoned order after a time gap of eight months deserve to be deprecated," the petitioners have averred.
Considering the submissions, the apex court put a stay on the order pronounced by NCDRC and held;
There shall be a stay of operation of the impugned judgment and order(s) in the meantime."
To access the official order, click on the link below-