DEVINDAR SINGH SHERGIL VS. STATE OF PUNJAB AND OTHERS

(1998) 8 SCC 552
Download Judgment: English
Country: India
Region: Asia
Year: 1996
Court: Supreme Court of India
Health Topics: Health care and health services, Health systems and financing
Human Rights: Right to health
Tags: Duty of care, public health

The appellant, a retired government official was informed by Postgraduate Institute of Medical Sciences, Chandigarh that no accommodation was available in the hospital at the time when he needed an urgent surgery to be performed against a malignant growth in his kidney. Consequently, he went immediately to the United Kingdom to get his surgery done but he didn’t inform the Punjab Government about his move to get operated in the UK owing to the lack of beds in the Chandigarh hospital. Later, on his return, he filed for reimbursement to the tune of £6673 (Rs. 3,73,174). The government, however, only granted a sum of Rs. 20,000 because that would have been the medical expenditure according to prevalent rates in Postgraduate Institute of Medical Sciences, Chandigarh. The High Court of Punjab and Haryana dismissed the writ petition of the appellant filed for full reimbursement the ground that the case “involved disputed questions of fact.” As a result, a Special Leave Petition had been filed before the Supreme Court.

According to the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India, why the appellant should not be reimbursed for the medical expense to the extent of the cost which may have been incurred in his treatment/operation if carried out in any of the recognized hospitals in India. The Court held that the appellant if treated in India, would have been entitled to be reimbursed for the amount spent on medical consumables, pharmaceutical items, other than the charges of the operation. The cost incurred on accommodation, procedure fees, expenses for medical consumables and pharmaceutical items, etc. in pounds had been converted to Indian currency to ascertain the amount due on them. Further, the cost of operation at the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences, one of the recognized hospitals in India, was to be considered, and not the cost at the hospital in the U.K. Therefore, according to the Court, the appellant was to be reimbursed to the tune of Rs. 95,000 in total and if the government of Punjab failed to pay it, it had to pay the amount at 15% interest from the date of the order of the Apex Court till payment was completely made.

“That the appellant, if treated in India, would have been entitled to be reimbursed for the amount spent on medical consumables, pharmaceutical items, besides the charges of the operation is not disputed. The appellant has, during the pendency of the appeal in this Court, produced the xerox copy of the bill from the Dendin Hospital in the U.K. where he underwent the operation. Those bills include charges for accommodation, procedure fees, expenses for medical consumables and pharmaceutical items, etc… By conversion of this amount at the rate of Rs. 55.03 per pound, which was the conversion rate prevalent in April 1992, the amount in respect of medical consumables and pharmaceutical items comes to more than Rs. 73,370 (rounded up as Rs. 73,000 only). According to the information furnished by the respondent on the basis of the rates of All-India Institute of Medical Sciences, the charges for the operation, if carried out at the Institute, would have been Rs. 22,000.” (Paragraph 2)

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