M. Vijaya v. Chairman and Managing Director, Singareni Collieries Co. Ltd., Hyd. and Ors

2002 ACJ 32; AIR 2001 AP 502; 201 (5) ALD 522; 2001 (5) ALT 154; 2001 (2) APLJ 450
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The Petitioner was the wife of a Pump Operator working for the Respondent, Singareni Colleries Co. Ltd. The Petitioner underwent a family planning operation at the Singareni Maternity Hospital (the Hospital) after which she suffered from abdominal pains. Her pains led to a diagnosis of Chronic Cervicitis for which she had to undergo a hysterectomy. She required one unit of blood for the purposes of the operation. Her brother donated the required blood.

After the operation, the Petitioner suffered from a persistent fever for which she sought treatment at several hospitals.  She was diagnosed HIV-positive at one of the hospitals. Her husband, however, was HIV negative. It was later discovered that the Petitioner’s brother was HIV-positive.

The Petitioner alleged that the Hospital did not test her brother’s blood for HIV at the time of donation. She filed a writ petition in the High Court alleging negligence on the part of the Hospital. The Respondents denied any negligence on their part and contended that the proper tests were conducted to ascertain whether the blood donated was free of disease.

The Court first noted that there was no legislation in place addressing with the spread and containment of HIV/AIDS. It held that since the AIDS Prevention Bill was yet to be enacted, government and non-government entities “should focus on Information, Education and Counselling.” The Court also delcared that control of mother-to-child transmission of HIV should be given top priority in these efforts.

The Court held that the State has a duty to identify people living with HIV in order to prevent transmission. In this regard, it held that the individual right to privacy must yield to the public interest. The Court also stated that a law furthering this objective would be constitutional if it was reasonable and fair.

The Court held that the Hospital was liable for negligence for failing to conduct proper tests on the blood donated by the Petitioner’s brother and for not detecting the presence of HIV therein. The Court held that the Petitioner was entitled to monetary compensation due to the Respondent’s negligence and for the violation of her fundamental rights to life and liberty under article 21 of the Constitution.

The Court stated that the Government of Andhra Pradesh should introduce legislation directed towards the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS in the state. It further issued exhaustive guidelines in this regard related the obligations of the State and the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS in public and private hospitals.

“By reason of expansive interpretation of 'life' in Article 21 of the Constitution of India in various Supreme Court judgments, which is now the law of the land, right to life includes the right to all reasonable health facilities.” Para. 47.