Parmanand Katara vs. Union of India & Ors
Citations: 1989 Air 2039, 1989 Scr (3) 997, 1989 Scc (4) 286, Jt 1989 (3)496
1989 Scale (2)380,
Bench: Misra Rangnath,
Date of judgment: on 28 August, 1989
This case has enlarged the scope and jurisprudence of emergency medical care in
India. This is a landmark judgment pronounced by Supreme Court which made it
obligatory for a doctor or a hospital both public and private to provide
immediate medical aid to a victim of a road accident.
No more lame excuses like
ďit seems to be a medico legal case; take the patient to the Government
HospitalĒ. This judgment is viewed as one of the best outcome/ achievement of PIL.
The petitioner, who claims himself to be a human right activist, filed this writ
petition in public interest on the basis of a newspaper report concerning the
death of a scooterist who was knocked down by a speeding car. The report further
states that the injured person was taken to the nearest hospital but the doctors
there refused to attend on him; that they told that he should be taken to
another hospital, located some 20 kilometers away, which was authorized to
handle medico-legal cases. The scooterist died while he was being transported to
the other hospital.
Article 21 of Indian constitution, clause 12 and clause 13 of Code of Medical
Whether a person can be allowed treatment by the hospital authorities in
accident cases, without having to follow several legal formalities before the
victim is rendered medical aid.
The petitioner has prayed the directions be issued to the Union of India that
every injured citizen brought for treatment should instantaneously be given
medical aid to preserve life and thereafter the procedural criminal law should
be allowed to operate in order to avoid negligent death, and in the event of
breach of such direction, apart from any action that may be taken for
negligence, appropriate compensation should be admissible.
Clause 12 and clause 13 of Code of Medical Ethics, 1970 represent the duty
imposed on doctors and practitioners to serve and treat those injured to their
best without rescuing themselves from performing their professional duty. A
detailed reading of Clause 13 further connotes that it strictly barred willful
negligence by the practitioners in order to establish the same degree of care
and skill while dealing with emergency cases which clearly indicated that even
the Medical Council itself has professional expectations from the practitioners.
Contrary to the Code of 1970, other legislations including the Cr.P.C, The
Indian Penal Code, or the Motor Vehicles Act didnít restrict from providing
medical treatment before completing formalities. Human life is indubitably more
valuable than prioritizing to get done with formalities first and to ensure the
same, required amendments would have to be effectuated soon to be able to
provide immediate medical care and relief to the injured ones.
The contention of the respondents was on the same line as of the petitioner,
however, with more input towards covering the legal aspects and measures
incorporated by them.
It was contended that the hindrance in this process is said to be caused by
statutory requirements to fulfill all the required legal formalities in the
presence of a police officer before administering treatment to the victim. One
of the respondents, the Indian Medical Council raised two relevant clauses of
the Code of Medical Ethics, 1970 that imposed duty and obligation upon the
doctors and medical practitioners to render their professional services.
relevant clauses contented by the Respondents are as discussed below:
Clause 10 of the 1970 code stated that a physician was not bound to treat every
sick person. However, in emergency situations like victims of road accidents, it
would be an obligation on a practitioner to be ready to respond and render his
service in the time of need.
On the other hand, clause 13 of the code provided that the freedom of
practitioners to choose whom to serve would be available to them, except for the
case of emergencies. It also further states that a medical practitioner should
not withdraw himself from treating or attending someone and barred willful
commission of negligence.
Based on the petition, the Supreme Court held that:
- Article 21 of the Constitution casts the duty on the State to preserve
- There can be no second opinion that preservation of human life is of
paramount importance. Once a life is lost, it cannot be restored as
resurrection is beyond the capacity of man. Every doctor, whether at a
government hospital or otherwise, has the professional obligation to extend
his or her services with due expertise for protecting life.
- There is no legal impediment for a medical professional when he or she
is called upon or requested to attend to an injured person needing his or
her medical assistance immediately. There is also no doubt that the effort
to save the person should be the top priority not only of the medical
professional but even of the police or any other citizen who happens to be
connected with the matter or who happens to notice such an incident or a
- Lawyers and judges and everyone concerned should also keep in mind that
a man in the medical profession should not be unnecessarily harassed for
purposes of interrogation or for any other formality and should not be
dragged during investigations at the police station. This should be avoided
as far as possible.
- The patient whether he be an innocent person or a criminal liable to
punishment under the laws of the society, it is the obligation of those who
are in charge of the health of the community to preserve life so that the
innocent maybe protected and the guilty may be punished. Social laws do not
contemplate death by negligence to tantamount to legal Punishment.
- Every doctor whether at a Government hospital or otherwise has the
professional obligation to extend his services with due expertise for
- No law or State action can intervene to avoid/delay the discharge of the
paramount obligation cast upon members of the medical profession. The
obligation being total, absolute and paramount, laws of procedure whether in
statute or otherwise which would interfere with the discharge of this
obligation cannot be sustained and must, therefore, give way.
- The Court gave directions for giving adequate publicity to the decision
in this case by the national media, the Doordarshan and the all India Radio, as
well as through the High Courts and the Sessions Judges.
Article 21 of Constitution casts the obligation on the State to preserve life.
The provision as explained by this Court in scores of decisions has emphasized
and reiterated with gradually increasing emphasis that position. A doctor at the
Government hospital positioned to meet this State obligation is, therefore,
duty-bound to extend medical assistance for preserving life. Every doctor
whether at a Government hospital or otherwise has the professional obligation to
extend his services with due expertise for protecting life.
No law or State action can intervene to avoid/delay the discharge of the
paramount obligation cast upon members of the medical profession. The obligation
being total, absolute and paramount, laws of procedure whether in statutes or
otherwise which would interfere with the discharge of this obligation cannot be
sustained and must, therefore, give way.
The learned judge opined that there were no impediments caused by the
legislative framework that barred a practitioner from giving treatment. He also
added that this duty of saving lives rested with the public and police as well
and that apprehensions about the same had to be cleared for all.Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Anamanamudi Sabari Deeksha Choudary
Authentication No: AP112050951560-30-0421