The 15-year long course in the much anticipated legal battle in the Anuradha Saha death case for which countless victims of “medical negligence” have been waiting with bated breath has finally come to an end when the Apex Court bench of Justices Mr. C.K. Prasad and Mr. V.G. Gowda concluded the final hearing and kept the judgment reserved (see attached SC Order above). This case involves the wrongful death of Anuradha Saha, wife of PBT’s founding president Dr. Kunal Saha. Anuradha, US-based child psychologist, died from gross medical negligence by several top Kolkata doctors (Sukumar Mukherjee, Baidyanath Halder, late Abani Roychowdhury and Balaram Prasad) and AMRI Hospital in Kolkata during a social visit to India in 1998. After a long and seemingly impossible legal battle for more than a decade, Supreme Court eventually held the Kolkata doctors/hospital responsible for Anuradha’s death in 2009 and remanded the case back to the National Consumer Commission (NCDRC) only for determination of the quantum of compensation to be paid by the Kolkata doctors/hospital.
On October 21, 2011, NCDRC awarded a total of Rs. 1.7 crores compensation against the Kolkata doctors and AMRI Hospital but deducted more than Rs. 40 lakh on ground of alleged “interference” by Dr. Saha (although Apex Court held only the Kolkata doctors/hospital guilty for Anuradha’s death) and also due to the death of one of the guilty doctors, Dr. Roychowdhury. Although this was the highest compensation ever awarded in India for death of a patient due to “medical negligence”, Dr. Saha has challenged the said order passed by NCDRC on numerous grounds including the fact that the NCDRC did not follow settled principles for calculating compensation in “medical negligence” cases while dismissing more than 98% of Dr. Saha’s claim. The NCDRC also used the “Multiplier” method for calculation of compensation which has never been used any case of “medical negligence” until now. In fact, “Multiplier” method is used under Section 163A of the Motor Vehicle Accident Act for awarding compensation to auto accident victims in “no fault” accident. Obviously, the “Multiplier” method minimizes the compensation to be paid by the rash and negligent doctors and hospitals.
The Supreme Court gave a patient hearing to all parties over a period of two weeks. While several senior advocates (Mr. Vijay Hansaria, Mr. Ramji Srinivasan) appeared on behalf of the guilty doctors and AMRI Hospital, Dr. Saha appeared in person to argue on his own behalf. Many new concepts that prevail for the victims of “medical negligence” in developed countries including compensation for “punitive damages” and “inflation” were strenuously argued before the Apex Court. The Apex Court was also urged to frame new guidelines for determination of “just compensation” for the victims of medical malpractice. Dr. Saha has already testified that apart from his personal legal expenses, the entire award for death of Anuradha, which now stands more than Rs. 200 crores including interest, would be donated for promotion of better healthcare and for the poor children of India.