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Case Summary: Jacob Mathew vs. State of Punjab

Brief Facts:
The case of Jacob Mathew vs state of Punjab is an important judgment on the point of negligence by a doctor the principals has been given on this point the story of this case in short is that late jeevan lal Sharma father of the informant who was admitted as a patient in the private ward of CMC hospital Ludhiana on 22/2/95 at above 11 pm he felt difficulty in breathing.
Informants elder brother Vijay Sharma was present there and he contacted the duty nurse of room. The elder brother of informant asked her to call doctor to attend the patient but no doctor turned up for about 20-25 min. Thereafter Doctor Jacob Mathew and Dr. Allen joseph came to the room of the patient.

Oxygen cylinder was connected to the mouth of the patient but the breathing problem increase further. Jeevan lal tried to get up but the medical staff asked him to remain in the bed. it was found that the cylinder was empty and no other gas cylinder was available in the room. Vijay Sharma went to the adjoining room and brought a gas cylinder and therefrom. There was no arrangement to make the gas cylinder functional and in between five to seven minutes were wasted.

By thus time and another doctor came there who declare that the patient was died. It has been further stated in the fir that the death of informant father was occurred due to the carelessness of doctor and nurses and non-availability of oxygen cylinder. The empty cylinder was fix in the mouth if unformat cylinder and his breathing was totally stopping and he died. The informant sent the dead body to his village for last cremation and gave statement of the death of Jeevan lal Sharma due to carelessness of doctor and nurses concerned.

On the basis of statement, a case under section 304A/34 IPC was registered and after investigation challan was filled against the two doctors.

Charge was framed under section 304A IPC against the two doctors by the judicial magistrate fist class Ludhiana. Both the accused person filed revision petition against the order of framing of charge before the learned session judge which was dismissed.

Thereafter the accused persons move the Hon'ble High court under section 482 of the code of criminal procedure with a prayer to quash the FIR and all subsequent proceeding.

The Hon'ble judge of Hon'ble high court disposed of the petition vide order dated on 18/12/2002. And formed an opinion that the plea raised by appellant was available to the urged in defense at the stage of trial. Thereafter an application for recalling the above order was moved which was also dismissed on 24/01/2003.

The appellant moved the Hon'ble supreme court against the order of the Hon'ble high court. The plea of appellant was the deceased Jeevan lal suffering from cancer in an advanced stage and as per information available he was not been admitted by any hospital in the country because he is being a case of cancer at terminal stage. According to appellant he’s so s are influential persons occupying important position in government and on their request Jeevan lal was admitted. the hospital regulated the proper treatment and management of diet. According to being informant lodged the case after the using their influence which is on warranted and uncalled for.

The matter came up before the Honorable Supreme Court comprising of two Hon'ble judges. The Hon'ble judges placed reliance on a recent two judge bench decision of the Supreme Court in Dr. Suresh Gupta VS. Government of NCT of Delhi9, the Hon'ble judges doubted the correction of the view taken in that case and vide order dated 09/09/2004 expressed the opinion that the matter called for consideration by a bench of three judges then the case come up for hearing before a bench of three judges.

The bench considered the matter in the light of several decisions of the Hon'ble supreme court on this point.

Title of the Case: Jacob Mathew v. State of Punjab
Bench:CJI R.C. Lahoti, G.P. Mathur & P.K. Balasubramanyan
Citation: AIR2005SC3180; (2005)6SCC1; 2005CriLJ3710
Date of Judgment: 05-08-2005

  • Petitioner-Dr. Jacob Mathew
  • Respondent-State of Punjab
The list of considered cases is given below:
  1. Andrew Vs. Director of Public Prosecutions
  2. Syed Akbar Vs. State of Karnataka
  3. Bhalchandra Waman Pathe Vs. State of Maharashtra

The honorable Supreme Court decided the appeal on the ground that the complaint has not alleged that the accused persons were not qualified doctor to treat the patient whom the complaint agrees to treat. There is allegation about none availability of oxygen cylinder.

Due to hospital management gas cylinder was not available or the oxygen gas cylinder found empty. Hence, the hospital may be liable in civil law. The doctors (appellant) cannot be held guilty of the offense u/s 304A IPC hence, the honorable Supreme Court allows the appeals and quest the prosecution proceeded u/s 304A / 34 IPC.

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