Indian Medical Association v VP Shantha Case Summary 1996

Indian Medical Association v VP Shantha Case Summary 1996

Indian Medical Association v VP Shantha case deals with the meaning of ‘service’ of a medical practitioner as per Consumer Protection Act.

Facts of Indian Medical Association v VP Shantha Case:

  • These appeals, special leave petitions and the writ petition raise a common question, viz., whether and, if so, in what circumstances, a medical practitioner can be regarded as rendering ‘service’ under section 2(1)(o) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.
  • Connected with this question is whether the service rendered at a hospital/nursing home can be regarded as ‘service’ under section 2(1)(o) of the Act. Various High Courts have considered these questions and by the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission.

Contentions and Issues:

Whether we can regard a service rendered by a medical practitioner of the hospital as ‘service’ under section 2(1)(o) of CPA 1986?

Ratio and Decision:

S.C. AGRAWAL, J.

(1) Service rendered to a patient by a medical practitioner (except where the doctor renders service free of charge to every patient or under a contract of personal service), by way of consultation, diagnosis, and treatment, both medicinal and surgical, would fall within the ambit of ‘service’ as defined in section 2(1)(o) of the Act.

(2) The fact that medical practitioners belong to the medical profession and are subject to the disciplinary control of the Medical Council of India and/or State Medical Councils made up under the Indian Medical Council Act would not exclude their services from the ambit of the Act.

(3) A “contract of personal service” has to be distinguished from a “contract for personal services”. In the absence of a relationship of master and servant between the patient and medical practitioner, the service rendered by a medical practitioner to the patient cannot be service rendered under a ‘contract of personal service’. Such service is service rendered under a “contract for personal services” and is not covered by the exclusionary clause of the definition of ‘service’ contained in section 2(1)(o) of the Act.

(4) The service rendered by a medical officer to his employer under the contract of employment would not be ‘service’ as defined in section 2(1)(o) of the Act.

(5) Service rendered free by a medical practitioner attached to a hospital/nursing home or a medical officer employed in a hospital/nursing home where such services are rendered free to everybody, would not be ‘service’ as defined in section 2(1)(o) of the Act. The payment of a token amount for registration purposes only at the hospital/nursing home would not alter the position.

(6) Service rendered at a non-government hospital/nursing home where no charge is made from any person availing of the service and all patients (rich and poor) are given free service — is not ‘service’ as defined in section 2(1)(o) of the Act. The payment of a token amount for registration purposes only at the hospital/nursing home would not alter the position.

(7) Service rendered at a non-government hospital/nursing home where charges are required to be paid by the persons availing of such services falls within the purview of the expression ‘service’ as defined in section 2(1)(o) of the Act.

(8) Service rendered at a non-government hospital/nursing home where charges are required to be paid by persons who can pay and persons who cannot afford to pay is rendered service free would fall within the ambit of the expression ‘service’ as defined in section 2(1)(o) of the Act irrespective of the fact that the service is rendered free to persons who are not in a position to pay for such services. Free service would also be ‘service’ and the recipient a ‘consumer’ under the Act.

 (11) Service rendered by a medical practitioner or hospital/nursing home cannot be service rendered free if the person availing of the service has taken an insurance policy for medical care where under the are borne by the insurance company and such service would fall within the ambit of ‘service’ as defined in section 2(1)(o) of the Act because he has paid for the insurance policy.

(12) Similarly, where, as a part of the conditions of service, the employer bears the expenses of medical treatment of an employee and his family members dependent on him, the service rendered to such an employee and his family members by a medical practitioner or a hospital/nursing home would not be free and would constitute ‘service’ under section 2(1)(o) of the Act.

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Om Ram

Om Ram

Om Ram is currently a 2nd-year LL.B. student at Campus Law Centre, Delhi University. Previously he did Life Sciences from SVC, Delhi University. He shows his life journey by making Legal Vlogs on a YouTube channel named 'Om Ram'. He has interests in Law, Science & Film making. Some of his notable work related to photography and other interests can be seen on his Instagram. He also has a channel named 'Law Planet' where he along with his sister makes videos to make people aware of laws and their rights.
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