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Indian Case Summary

Indian Medical Association vs V.P. Shantha & Ors on 13 November, 1995 – Case Summary

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In the case of the Indian Medical Association vs V.P. Shantha & Ors on 13 November, 1995, the Supreme Court of India was called upon to address a significant question concerning the applicability of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 (the Act) to medical practitioners and hospitals.

The case arose from a series of appeals and special leave petitions that questioned whether a medical practitioner could be considered as rendering ‘service’ under Section 2(1)(o) of the Act. The question also extended to whether the service rendered at a hospital or nursing home could be regarded as ‘service’ under the same section of the Act. The issue had been considered by various High Courts as well as by the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (the National Commission).

The case brought to light differing views from various courts. For instance, the Andhra Pradesh High Court held that service rendered for consideration by private medical practitioners, private hospitals, and nursing homes must be construed as ‘service’ for the purpose of Section 2(1)(d) of the Act. On the other hand, the Madras High Court held that services rendered to a patient by a medical practitioner or by a hospital by way of diagnosis and treatment, both medicinal and surgical, would not come within the definition of ‘service’ under Section 2(1)(o) of the Act.

The National Commission, in its judgment, held that persons who avail themselves of the facility of medical treatment in Government hospitals are not “consumers” and the said facility offered in the Government hospitals cannot be regarded as service “hired” for “consideration”. It was held that the payment of direct or indirect taxes by the public does not constitute “consideration” paid for hiring the services rendered in the Government hospitals.

The Supreme Court, in its judgment, noted that medical practitioners, though belonging to the medical profession, are not immune from a claim for damages on the ground of negligence. The Court held that the service rendered by medical practitioners and hospitals/nursing homes can be regarded as a “service” as contemplated in the main part of Section 2(1)(o) of the Act.

The Court’s observations underscored the changing position of the relationship between medical practitioners and patients, noting that consumerism is now firmly established in medical practice. The Court’s judgment thus affirmed that the Act applies to medical practitioners and hospitals, thereby providing a significant measure of consumer protection in the field of medical services.