1995 ruling bringing doctors under Consumer Protection Act requires reconsideration: SC

08:09 PM May 14, 2024 | PTI |

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday said its 1995 judgement which brought the medical profession within the ambit of Consumer Protection Act needs to be reconsidered.


A bench of Justices Bela M Trivedi and Pankaj Mithal said the decision of the three-judge bench deserves to be revisited and considered by a larger bench.

“In our humble opinion, the said decision deserves to be revisited having regard to the history, object, purpose and the scheme of the Consumer Protection Act and in view of the opinion expressed by us hereinabove to the effect that neither the ‘Profession’ could be treated as ‘business’ or ‘trade’ nor the services provided by the ‘Professionals’ could be treated at par with the services provided by the Businessmen or the Traders, so as to bring them within the purview of the CP Act,” the bench said.

The bench referred the matter to the Chief Justice of India for his consideration.

In 1995, the Supreme Court delivered a decision in Indian Medical Association Vs VP Shantha case which brought the medical profession within the ambit of a service as defined in Section 2(1)(o) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.


Section 2(1)(o) of the Act defines the word “service” to mean a “service of any description, which is made available to potential users and includes, but not limited to, the provision of facilities in connection with banking, financing, insurance, transport, processing, supply of electrical or other energy, boarding or lodging or both, housing construction, entertainment, amusement or the purveying of news or other information, but does not include the rendering of any service free of charge or under a contract of personal service”.

The apex court’s observation came while pronouncing a judgement which held that the lawyers do not come within the purview of Consumer Protection Act and cannot be sued for “deficiency in service” before the consumer courts.

The bench clarified that this does mean that the professionals could not be sued or held liable for their alleged misconduct or tortious or criminal acts.

“In the process of overall depletion and erosion of ethical values and degradation of the professional ethics, the instances of professional misconduct are also on the rise. Undoubtedly, no professional either legal, medical or any other professional enjoys any immunity from being sued or from being held liable for his professional or otherwise misconduct or other misdeeds causing legal, monetary or other injuries to his clients or the persons hiring or availing his services.

“The fact that professionals are governed by their respective Councils like Bar Councils or Medical Councils also would not absolve them from their civil or criminal liability arising out of their professional misconduct or negligence. Nonetheless, as discussed hereinabove, we are of the opinion that neither the Professions nor the Professionals were ever intended to be brought within the purview of the CP Act either of 1986 or 2019,” it said.


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