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.