In a significant ruling, the Supreme Court expressed dissatisfaction with the low compensation awarded by the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) and the Himachal Pradesh State Consumer Commission in a medical negligence case involving a private hospital.
The case, titled Jyoti Devi vs Suket Hospital and ors, centered on an appendicitis removal surgery conducted at Suket Hospital in Himachal Pradesh’s Mandi in June 2005. Following the surgery, the patient continued to endure excruciating pain for four years, leading to the discovery that a needle had been negligently left in her abdominal region during the procedure.
Despite compelling evidence and findings in favor of the claimant, the compensation awarded by the consumer fora was deemed inadequate by the Supreme Court. The apex court criticized the NCDRC and the State Commission for their failure to justify the nominal compensation awarded, particularly in light of the claimant’s prolonged suffering and the egregious nature of the medical negligence.
In its scathing remarks, the Court emphasized the fundamental principle that compensation must be commensurate with the extent of the harm suffered, especially when the claimant bears no responsibility for the inflicted injuries. The Court questioned the rationale behind reducing the compensation amount, stating that such a decision lacked justification and failed to consider the gravity of the situation.
The apex court, therefore, set aside the orders of the NCDRC and the State Commission, reinstating the decision of the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, which had initially awarded the claimant ₹5 lakh in compensation. Additionally, the Court ordered the respondents to expedite the payment of the enhanced compensation amount of ₹5 lakh, along with simple interest of 9 per cent from the date of the District Forum’s award.
Recognizing the legal expenses incurred by the claimant in pursuing justice, the Supreme Court further directed the payment of ₹50,000 as litigation expenses.
Advocates Subhash Chandran KR, Biju P Raman, Krishna LR, and John Thomas Arakal represented the claimant, Jyoti Devi, while Advocates JPN Shahi, Rameshwar Prasad Goyal, Mritunjay Kumar Sinha, and Vimal Sinha appeared for the hospital and accused-doctors.
This landmark ruling underscores the judiciary’s commitment to upholding the rights of consumers and ensuring that victims of medical negligence receive just and adequate compensation for their suffering. It serves as a reminder to all stakeholders in the healthcare system to prioritize patient safety and accountability, thereby fostering a culture of transparency and responsibility in medical practice.

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