The issue which was addressed in this case was that of applicability of The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 to medical practitioners and hospitals. The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 was enacted to safeguard and to provide better protection to the customers/consumers of India.
As there was an increasing number of cases of medical negligence and also there were various conflicting and contrasting observations and rationale in this regard by different high courts and other courts of India. So in this case a writ was filed in the SC of India under Article 32 of the Constitution to decide about the Scope and jurisdiction of The Consumer Protection Act 1986.
Can a medical practitioner be regarded as rendering ‘Service’ under section 2(1)(o) of The Consumer Protection Act,1986?
Will the services provided at a hospital or nursing home come under ‘service’ under section 2(1)(o) of The Consumer Protection Act, 1986?
Different Arguments and Observations:-
- It was argued by the IMA that law distinguishes among a profession and an occupation. And this act only includes occupational service it does not include professional service. So the medical profession because of being a professional service should not be called service under section 2(1)(o) of The Consumer Protection Act, 1986. Therefore does not come under purview of the Act.
- The Supreme Court rejected this argument and observed that medical professional must be held liable if they are negligent. And to determine their negligence the court suggested Bolam test.
- Secondly the issue of the Hospital and Nursing home came. If they come under the scope of the Consumer Protection Act 1986?
- The Supreme Court made 3 categories to determine the nature of the services by the hospital or medical practitioner.
These three are as follows:-
- Are the services being rendered free of charges to anybody and everybody?
- Charges being paid by all users of service.
- Charges are only paid by who can afford it and those who cannot afford it get it done free.
There were no difficulty in determining in first category as when the services are rendered free then there is no service according to Sec 2(1)(o) of the Consumer Protection Act 1986.
In the 2nd category, the people are paying consideration for their services so they will come under the Act and will be covered by the protection of it. The giving of token money will not be considered as a consideration in this situation.
In the 3rd category, the Court said that it will come under the scope of the Act as the one paying for his own is also paying consideration for the others. So they will be beneficiaries under the Act.