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Legal personhood, liability and future of artificial intelligence: Thinking it through

When we look at artificially intelligent devices, or independently function-able machines with deep learning capabilities, can they be classified as persons? Can it be argued that now that these devices are able to replicate human emotions and gestures, they have an apparently independent intellect that they are now human-like?

Nikhil Naren

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The Background

The understanding of ‘personhood’ is fundamental to any understanding of law. So, who is a person? If one wants to enter into a contract or hold a property, they need to be a ‘legal person’. Some of the Hon’ble High Courts in India in their exceptional judgments have held that animals too have a personality and hence enjoy certain rights. A Court in New Zealand declared Whanganui river which is a home to the Maori tribe to be a legal person. If we refer to the Black’s Law Dictionary, it defines a legal person as an entity “given certain legal rights and duties of a human being; a being, real or imaginary, who for the purpose of legal reasoning is treated more or less as a human being.”

This definition reflects a modern trend to associate legal personhood with humanity; however, any entity that is capable of bearing rights and duties should, in principle, be capable of being a legal person. In order for us to understand the importance of legal personhood, we must divorce it from humanity. Jurists have often opined that legal person lacks a statutory definition but is rather found on the popular definitions, historical, political, philosophical and theological considerations.

I was first introduced to the concept of ‘corporate personality’, the principle of the independent corporate existence of a company while reading the famous UK company law case of Saloman v. Saloman & Co. This case created a bedrock principle of ‘corporate personality’ across different jurisdictions, including India. While we granted personhood to a body corporate in India, we are also settled with the fact that it cannot be a citizen under the constitutional law of India or the Citizenship Act, 1955. The reason as to why a company cannot be treated as a citizen is that citizenship is available to individuals or natural persons only and not to juristic persons. While most of the countries in the world continue to debate about the granting of personhood status to an artificially intelligent machine, Saudi Arabia in the year 2017 granted citizenship to a humanoid robot, Sophia. Soon after, the concept of an ‘Electronic Person’ was also introduced in the European Union but was soon brought down to dust by the European Commission.

 It can be thus reasonably concluded that the status of personhood may not necessarily rest on the presence or absence of human genome. So, when we look at artificially intelligent devices, or independently function-able machines with deep learning capabilities, can they be classified as persons? Can it be argued that now that these devices are able to replicate human emotions and gestures, they have an apparently independent intellect that they are now human-like?

 Consider a computer system which functions on algorithms and is controlled by Artificial Intelligence, the activities it carries out cannot be predicted by humans. In such a situation, with whom shall the liability rest if the Artificial Intelligence causes harm to a human or damage to a property? The Artificial Intelligence which directed the actions of the machine that caused the damage but lacks personhood status, or the human being who lacks knowledge of how the machine performed or whether if the machine was actually trying to solve a particular problem?

Another argument relates to ‘consciousness’ which is as fascinating as it is important. Some people even define consciousness as being a form of intelligence and thus is only related to humans. Hence, a robot may be called intelligent if it can perform a task without any supervision and if it can constantly improve and learn new things. Afterall, having consciousness means that one is aware of their own existence and/or they can think and/or adapt to their surroundings, etc. But, can we then infer that the robot has become conscious? A reasonable conclusion here will mean that intelligence cannot be equated with consciousness as all animals and plants may not exactly be intelligent as we define it and yet we can agree upon the fact that they are indeed conscious.

Ethics and Trust

The developers of an artificially intelligent machine must be considerate towards the ethical issues which are inherent in AIs. To explain these issues, we may break it down into two important parts: firstly, developers must know their systems and their capabilities and secondly, they must be aware of different types of bias that are potentially present in their systems and also the ones that may creep in at a later stage. This is because machine learning is inherently biased and works on the fundamental assumption of bias. After giving due consideration to the two things stated above, developers can avoid creating systems that may have a negative impact rather than a positive one. It won’t be incorrect to settle with the fact that these machines will become sentient in the near future.

With innovation happening, we have witnessed a series of technological advancements and no matter how much of a good intent one puts behind using these advancements for the good, it might be used and misconstrued in some way to be used for bad. This is generally applicable to the majority of things around us.

Imposing Liability and Granting Intellectual Property Rights

 If we go on to say that the artificially intelligent machines can be held liable for their actions, it could also mean that we acknowledge that these machines have their own intellect. Quite recently, the United States Patents and Trademark Office (USPTO) denied giving patent rights to the work generated by an AI known as Dabus citing that there is no law that confers a machine to own property and only natural persons can be named as inventors.

 A similar contention was raised in July 2011, when a British photographer David Slater travelled to a national park in North Sulawesi, Indonesia, to take pictures of the local wildlife. After Slater left his camera equipment out for a group of wild macaques to explore, the monkeys took a series of photos, including selfies. Once the photos were posted publicly, legal disputes arose around who should own the copyrights —the human photographer who engineered the situation, or the macaques who snapped the photos. The Court settled the dispute with the rationale that since animals are NOT a natural person, they lack statutory standing under the Copyright Act.

In most countries, the Intellectual Property Law focuses on ‘creators’ and ‘inventors’- which means “people” who create and invent. Therefore, the notion of human as inventor is embedded within the Intellectual Property application process, which clearly goes on to say that the laws are framed in terms of human creations.

The need for an amendment in our current laws will be pressing as artificial intelligence becomes more creative and autonomous from humans. In a scenario, the employer of a creator or an inventor becomes the owner of the intellectual property by virtue of the work for hire doctrine or an employment agreement. Perhaps, artificial intelligence could be regulated under the work for hire doctrine in which the employer would own the rights on the work.

Similarly, who would own the intellectual property for a work created by the use of artificial intelligence? In my opinion, it may seem very difficult to answer this question but if one really thinks about it, the answer may be pretty simple. Most of the AIs work on machine learning, which is just another algorithm. So, when it generates a work, the rights should vest with the person who owns the algorithm and/or whoever owns the rights to use the algorithm.

Another very interesting scenario is the coming up of self-driving cars. While most of us are familiar with the concept of ‘Nofault liability’ under the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019, could we really punish the AI if it knocks someone down on the streets? Or should the liability rest with the person who put the car on the automation mode? Or the liability rests with the company who is manufacturing the vehicle?

Let us think for a moment that the self-driving car has two options: to injure a person on the road OR the person inside the car. What should it choose? This is indeed a very difficult decision to make and even more difficult to blame and impose liability based on such decision. It would not be wrong, if I say that we have been facing such issues throughout history. There were times when humans drove horse carriages. Think for a moment that someone on the road made a weird noise or ended up doing something which the horse didn’t like and it injured a pedestrian. Who would you blame? The carriage driver? But he didn’t have any control over the horse. Will you punish the horse? No point in that, right? It is actually difficult to work around these issues.

Hence, liability may be imposed on an artificially intelligent machine using the work for hire doctrine or the concept of next friend. In furtherance of the same, the capabilities and ‘power’ of an AI could also help us in imposing liability on the owner using the doctrine of Strict Liability propounded in the famous English case of Rylands v. Fletcher in 1868. I feel, imposing liability in the case of machines which uses algorithms embedded with ‘self-improvisation’ could be easier in some cases and may help in seeking compensation from the owner of such machines for the damage caused.

Using Artificial Intelligence in Law

‘Virtual Courts’ are now a reality, but has its own limitations. Using technology and using technology effectively are two very different things. The setting up of online courts are being done manually, putting a restraint on the nature and number of cases that are being taken up for online hearing. Kevin Kelly, a famous author, has given a very subtle definition of an AI which is applicable to every work-setting. He says that if he has x, he will add AI to his x. It basically portrays a notion that an AI in one shape, way or form, or in any shape or form, is going to permeate every aspect of human endeavor.

China recently welcomed the ‘brave new world of justice’ with the Courtrooms, presided by an artificially intelligent judge, using blockchains, and cloud computing technologies. While the use of blockchains can help in creating and storing a clearer record of the legal processes, the artificially intelligent judge helps ease the burden on human justices, who monitor the proceedings and make the major rulings in each case.

The use of AI has drastically changed the way legal research used to happen some years ago and has made it more effective and time-saving. Artificial Intelligence algorithms which has the ability to learn by example coupled with the natural language processing and natural language generation capabilities have enabled machines and humans to understand and interact with each other.

 AI powered advances in speech-to-text technology have also made real time transcriptions a reality. I won’t be surprised if we witness chatbots powered by natural language processing capabilities to question clients and provide solutions like lawyers. Such chatbots are being already used in the healthcare sector to run basic diagnoses like real doctors. But I feel, for now, except for the AI assistance in legal research, it is hard to completely replace lawyers or the judges with a machine because law does not only work on precedents but also on interpretations. As we say, ‘depending on facts and circumstances’ of each case.

 The Future

We seldom regret the inventions of air conditioners, refrigerators, wheels or a car. These inventions have transformed our lives in ways we couldn’t have ever imagined. Similarly, AI has begun to transform lives in meaningful ways. Some jobs which require ‘repeatable’ tasks to be done may get automated. The World Economic Forum projects that 75 million jobs will be displaced by AI but the same report also indicates that AI will result in the creation of around 133 million new jobs, 60 million more than will be lost.

Data in every form, is a food for machine learning algorithms to function and needs to be regulated. All the sectors are being swamped by a tsunami of unstructured data. In the Indian context, the current scope of the Information Technology Act, 2000 needs to be broadened or a new legislation should come in place before AI is put to use in majority of sectors. A rock-solid framework such as the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 which is pending since long needs to be enacted. The recent committee report on Non-Personal Data by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) is a welcome move and pays attention to managing the data landscape in the future.

Needless to say, it has become quintessential for all of us to keep up-skilling and re-skilling ourselves to embrace the existence of AI in the future.

Adv. Nikhil Naren practices law focusing on areas of Intellectual Property, Technology and Artificial Intelligence.

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Allahabad High Court Quashes POSCO Case: If Husband/Accused Is Convicted Then Victim/Wife’s Future Would Be Ruined

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Allahabad High Court Quashes POSCO Case: If Husband/Accused Is Convicted Then Victim/Wife’s Future Would Be Ruined

The Allahabad High Court recently in the case Rajiv Kumar v. State of U.P. And 2 Others observed and has recently quashed an FIR and criminal proceedings in a POCSO case registered against a man as it noted that the accused man and victim-wife (who was a minor at the time of the incident) married the accused/ applicant out of her own sweet will and is living a happy married life with him.
The bench comprising of Justice Manju Rani Chauhan observed that to punish punish the offenders for a crime, involved in the present case, is in the interest of society, but, at the same time, the husband is taking care of his wife and in case, the husband is sentenced and convicted for societal interest, then, the wife will be in great trouble and it would ruin their future. Thus, it is also in the interest of society to settle and resettle the family for their welfare, the bench quashed the rape-POCSO case against the accused.

Facts of the Case:
The Maternal Uncle of the Victim lodged an FIR against the accused under Sections 363, 366, and Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860and Section 3/4 of the POCSO Act, alleging that the accused had raped the victim (then a 17-year-old minor).
Further, the accused moved the instant Section 482 CrPC petition seeking to quash the instant FIR. Also, the victim appeared before the Court and had submitted that her maternal uncle had lodged the FIR in an attempt to ruin her married life.
It was further stated by her that she has entered into a compromise with the accused and has married him out of her free will, and consent, and without any external pressure, coercion, or threat of any kind. Before the court, it was also submitted that that out of their wedlock, they are blessed with a male child, who is presently four and half years old and as per her date of birth and at the time of marriage she was nearly 17 and half years old.
It was submitted by the Applicant-Accused that on account of the compromise entered into between the parties concerned, all disputes between them have come to an end, and therefore, further proceedings are liable to be quashed in the present case.

Observations Made By Court:
In the present case, the court noted that though the offence under the relevant sections 363, 366 and 376 of IPC and Sections 3/4 of POCSO Act are not compoundable under Section 320 Cr.P.C, however, adding to it, the court stated that the power of the High Court under Section 482 Cr.P.C is not inhibited by the provisions of Section 320 Cr.P.C and the criminal proceedings as well as the FIR can be quashed by exercising inherent powers under provision of Section 482 Cr.P.C, if warranted in given facts and circumstances of the case for ends of justice or to prevent abuse of the process of any Court, even including the cases which are not compoundable where parties have settled the matter between themselves.
The court while considering the facts and circumstances of the case, and also the submissions made by the counsel for the parties, the court came to the considered opinion that the victim herself, has stated before this Court that out of her own sweet will, she has married the applicant and is living a happy married life and out of their wedlock, the couple are blessed with a male child. However, no useful purpose shall be served by prolonging the proceedings of the criminal case as the parties have already settled their disputes.
Accordingly, the court quashed the charge sheet and the cognizance order as well as the entire proceedings of the Criminal Case were hereby quashed. Thus, the application was allowed.

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SC likely to hear next month pleas related to Article 370

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SC to hear Manoj Tiwari’s plea on firecracker

A Supreme Court constitution bench is expected to hear a slew of petitions related to Article 370 of the Constitution, which granted Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) semi-autonomous status before it was repealed in August 2019. Chief Justice of India (CJI) Uday Umesh Lalit said on Friday that the petitions will be heard after the Dussehra holiday.

When senior advocate Prashanth Sen asked the CJI to list the matter, Justice Lalit responded, “We will certainly list that…it will be listed after Dussehra break.” From October 3 to 10, the court will be closed for Dussehra.

The petitions were last heard in March 2020, when a five-judge panel declined to refer the case to a larger panel. The reference was requested because previous court decisions on the subject were in conflict with one another. This contention was rejected by the bench.

At the time, the bench was aware of an older batch of petitions pending in the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of Articles 370 and 35A, which granted J&K special status. It was stated that all issues concerning Article 370 should preferably be heard together.

National Conference legislators, former bureaucrats, and some organisations are among those who have objected to the repeal of Article 370. Some petitioners cited the Supreme Court’s 2018 decision, which stated that Article 370 had gained permanent status.

Many petitions have also been filed against the Jammu and Kashmir State Reorganization Act, which calls for the division of J&K into two Union Territories.

Despite opposition from the central government, which argued that Article 370 had international and cross-border implications, the Supreme Court issued notices on the petitions on August 28, 2019. The Centre also claimed that it is a highly sensitive issue, and that whatever happens in the country will be brought up at the United Nations. While issuing notices in 2019, the court referred the case to the five-judge constitution bench.

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Supreme Court: Fixed Term Sentences Exceeding 14 Years Can Be Alternative To Death Sentence In Certain Cases

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death penalty

The Supreme Court in the case State of Haryana vs Anand Kindoo observed and stated that fixed term sentences exceeding 14 years can be awared in appropriate cases to strike a delicate balance between the victims’ petition for justice and rehabilitative justice for the convicts.
The bench comprising of Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Justice Abhay S. Oka and the Justice Vikram Nath observed that this fixed term sentence can only be by the High Court or this Court and not by the trial Court.
In the present case, the trial court awarded death sentence to the accused who were ‘trusted employees’ of the deceased. However, Major General Kailash Chand Dhingra (K.C. Dhingra) and his wife Smt. Sangeeta Dhingra, who were an aged couple and were killed by the accused while they were sleeping. It was refused by the High Court to confirm the death sentence and imposed life sentence on them.
In an appeal before the Apex Court, the complainant and the state contended that given the brutality of the crime, the court should impose a fixed term sentence before which the convicts are not liable to be considered for granting of remission. Thus, it was submitted that there should be at least a fixed term sentence.
The court observed that it was a pre-planned murder for gain and greed by somebody who was in a position of trust with the family.
The bench observed that at an advanced stage in such health respect, there is always an element of trust and faith in the person by a person who employs them as well as the family members. However, the work takes other family members elsewhere and with the joint family system having broken down, the role of such trusted help becomes even more significant. Also, it is the significance of the society where a wrong signal goes if a trusted person breaches that trust to kill the person who had employed them in such a gruesome manner. It has been stated by the trial Court, the society itself demands justice, apart from an utter element on deterrence which is in any aspect of conviction. Further, the approach cannot be the vindictive but lack of appropriate sentence leaves the cry of justice of the society un-addressed apart from the fact that other persons who may have the propensity to carry out the crime feel that they will get away with the lighter sentence, if in case they are caught. While, battering two sleeping people beyond recognition who imposed trust in their employee certainly calls for something more than merely a life sentence under Section 302, IPC, even if death sentence is not to be imposed.
Therefore, the court imposed a fixed term sentence of 30 years.
The bench while allowing the appeal observed in the case Shankar Kishanrao khade vs. State of Mahrashtra (2013) 5 SCC 546, wherein it was held that if there is any circumstance favouring the accused such as lack of intention to commit the crime, young age of the accused, possibility of reformation etc., accused not being a menance to the society, no previous criminal record etc., the accused may avoid capital punishment. It was opined by the court that the crime is important but so is the criminal and hence the Supreme Court in recent past has substituted death penalty with fixed term sentences exceeding 14 years. It stated that imposing a fixed term sentence creates a possibility for the convict to re-integrate into society after serving his/her sentence. A delicate balance is strike the balance between victims’ plea for justice.

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NCLAT Upholds Dismissal Of Section 7 Petition, Corporate Debtor Willing To Pay Full Amount, Opposed By Financial Creditor

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NCLAT Upholds Dismissal Of Section 7 Petition, Corporate Debtor Willing To Pay Full Amount, Opposed By Financial Creditor

The National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (“NCLAT”) in the case Reliance Commercial Finance Limited v Darode Jog Builder Private Limited, the Principal Bench, comprising of Justice Ashok Bhushan (Chairperson), Judicial Member, Justice M. Satyanarayana Murthy and the Technical Member, Mr. Barun Mitra observed while adjudicating an appeal filed in Reliance Commercial Finance Limited v Darode Jog Builder Pvt. Ltd., has upheld the Adjudicating Authority’s decision to not admit a petition under Section 7 of IBC, despite there being a default and a debt. It was recorded by the bench the Corporate Debtor an opportunity to pay/settle the full amount of default despite the Financial Creditor’s unwillingness to enter settlement.

Background Facts of the Case:
The Appellant/ Financial Creditor, Reliance Commercial Finance Limited had sanctioned Term-Loans of Rs. 19.5 Crores to the Corporate Debtor i.e., Darode Jog Builder Pvt. Ltd. on 29.07.2013. In 2017, the Loan Accounts were declared as the Non-Performing Assets. On 04.11.2019, a petition under Section 7 of Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (“IBC”) was filled by Financial Creditor, wherein seeking initiation of Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process (“CIRP”) over a default of Rs. 15,79,41,658/- against the Corporate Debtor.
It was observed that in an hearing held on 06.07.2022, the Corporate Debtor acknowledged its liability to pay and made an offer of Rs. 12.75 Crores, which is to be paid within 45 days. Thus, the Adjudicating Authority directed the Counsel for the Financial Creditor to obtain appropriate instructions. Thus, the court observed that if the Settlement did not take place, the Petition would automatically be admitted on the next date of hearing.
The court on the next date of hearing i.e. 11.07.2022, it was submitted by the Corporate Debtor that it is willing to deposit the entire amount of Rs. 15,79,41,658/- within 45 days. However, the Financial Creditor expressed its unwillingness for settling the matter. The Bank account details of the Financial Creditor were obtained by the Adjudicating Authority and alongside granted liberty to the latter to file for restoration of petition in case said amount is not deposited within 45 days. The court disposed of the appeal.
The Financial Creditor filed an appeal before the NCLAT, aggrieved by the order dated 11.07.2022.

Contentions Made By Appellant:
It was submitted by the Financial Creditor that the Adjudicating Authority committed error in disposing of the Petition, as it was not willing to settle the matter. However, the Adjudicating Authority could not have permitted the Corporate Debtor to deposit amount in Financial Creditor’s account.

Contentions Made By Respondent:
It was argued by the Corporate Debtor that Financial Creditor was unwilling to settle as earlier entire amount was not offered and settlement had not taken place despite several adjournments. Further, it was submitted that the Corporate Debtor has financial capacity to deposit the entire amount.

NCLAT Decision:
The Bench placed reliance on the Supreme Court judgment in the case Vidarbha Industries Power Limited Vs. Axis Bank Limited, Civil Appeal No. 4633 of 2021.
It was observed by the bench that as per the judgment, even after debt and default is there, Adjudicating Authority has to apply its mind to assess the feasibility of initiating CIRP.
It stated that when the Corporate Debtor has complied to deposit the entire defaulted amount of the Financial Creditor as permitted by the Adjudicating Authority and no purpose and occasion shall survive to still proceed with the Corporate Debtor Insolvency Resolution.
Accordingly, the bench observed that the proceedings under Section 7 are for resolution of insolvency. Adjudicating Authority had not erred in ascertaining whether the Corporate Debtor can comply to deposit the entire defaulted amount in bank account of Financial Creditor’s. Further, the court observed that the Financial Creditor’s interest was fully protected, since liberty was already given to revive the petition in case full amount was not received within 45 days.

The bench dismissed the appeal.

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IBBI Amends Liquidation Process Regulations: COC To Function As Stakeholder’s Consultation Committee For First 60 Days

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IBBI Amends Liquidation Process Regulations: COC To Function As Stakeholder’s Consultation Committee For First 60 Days

On 16.09.2022, the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (“IBBI”) has notified amendments for a second time to the IBBI (Voluntary Liquidation Process) Regulations, 2016 (“Voluntary Liquidation Regulations”) and IBBI (Liquidation Process) Regulations, 2016 (“Liquidation Regulations”).
Detailed Overview Of the Amendments:
the IBBI has introduced the following amendments to the Voluntary Liquidation Regulations and Liquidation Process regulations, in exercise of the powers conferred by Section 196(1)(t) read with Section 240 of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016.
For enabling better participation of stakeholders and streamline the liquidation process to reduce delays and realize better value, the following major modifications are made for the amendment in Liquidation Regulation.
The Committee of Creditors (CoC) constituted during Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process (CIRP) shall function as Stakeholders Consultation Committee (SCC) in the first 60 days and after the adjudication of claims and within 60 days of initiation of process, the SCC shall be reconstituted with respect to the admitted claims.
It has been mandated to the liquidator to conduct the meetings of SCC in a structured and time bound manner with better participation of stakeholders.
It has been enlarged the scope of mandatory consultation by liquidator with SCC and now SCC may even propose replacement of liquidator to the Adjudicating Authority (AA) and fix the fees of liquidator, if the same during CIRP is not fixed by the CoC.
The amount of claim collated during CIRP shall be verified by the liquidator, if any claim is not fixed during the liquidation process.
Whenever it is decided by the CoC that the process of compromise or arrangement may be explored during liquidation process, an application shall be filled by the liquidator only in such cases before Adjudicating Authority for considering the proposal of arrangement or compromise, if any, within thirty days of the order of liquidation.
For Auction process, specific event-based timelines have been stipulated.
SCC b Before filing of an application for dissolution or closure of the process shall advice the liquidator, the manner in which proceedings in respect of avoidance transactions or fraudulent or wrongful trading and shall be pursued after closure of liquidation proceedings.
Further, the Amendment Liquidation Regulations and Amendment Voluntary Liquidation Regulations lays down the manner and period of retention of records relating to liquidation and voluntary liquidation of a corporate debtor or corporate person, respectively.

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Supreme Court: Setting Aside NCDRC Order Awarding Compensation To Women Who Gave Birth Despite Undergoing Tubectomy Surgery

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Supreme Court: Setting Aside NCDRC Order Awarding Compensation To Women Who Gave Birth Despite Undergoing Tubectomy Surgery

The Supreme Court in the case Civil Hospital vs Manjit Singh observed and has set aside an NCDRC order that directed a hospital to pay compensation to a woman who delivered a child despite undergoing tubectomy procedure.
In the present case, a woman underwent tubectomy procedure twice, though both the procedures remained unsuccessful. In the year 2003, she gave birth to a male child. A complaint was filled by her before the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum alleging medical negligence on account of failed tubectomy surgery. Thus, the court dismissed the same on the ground that the hospital is not a consumer. The order was affirmed by the State Consumer Commission (SCDRC). Later, the revision petition was allowed by the National Consumer Commission and has directed to pay compensation as per the guidelines and the policy of the State.
Before the Apex Court, two contentions were raised by the hospital (1) that hospitals and Doctors who render service without any charge to every person availing of the service would not fall within the ambit of ‘service’ under Section 2(1)(o) of the Act relying on the case Indian Medical Association Vs. V.P. Shantha And Ors., (1995) 6 SCC 651 that the failed tubectomy surgery is not a case of medical negligence as the sterilized woman can become pregnant due to natural causes. [relying on the case State of Punjab Vs. Shiv Ram and Ors., 2005, 7 SCC 1].
The bench while taking notice of the law laid down in the decisions relied on by the appellants, allowed the appeal by setting aside the NCDRC order. However, if the respondent has been paid any amount in terms of the Order of the NCDRC, the same shall not be recovered by the State, the bench said.
It was observed in In V.P. Shantha that the Hospitals and Doctors who render service without any charge whatsoever to every person availing of the service would not fall within the ambit of ‘service’ under Section 2(1)(o) of the Act. Thus, the payment of a token amount for registration purposes only would not alter the position in respect of such doctors and hospitals.
The Apex Court regarding failed tubectomy surgery in Shiv Ram (supra), had observed that the cause of action in claiming compensation in cases of failed sterilization operation arises on account of negligence of the surgeon and not on the account of child birth. Further, the failure due to natural causes would not provide any ground for claim and it is the women who has conceived the child to go or not to go for medical termination of pregnancy. Thus, having gathered the knowledge of conception in spite of having undergone sterilization operation, if the couple opts for bearing the child, it ceases to be an unwanted child and the compensation for maintenance and upbringing of such a child cannot be claimed.

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