SC Dismisses Plea Seeking Declaration That Healthcare Services Are Excluded From Purview Of Consumer Protection Act
The Supreme Court today dismissed an SLP filed by Medicos Legal Action Group against the dismissal of their PIL before the Bombay High Court seeking a declaration that services performed by healthcare service providers do not come within the purview of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019. A mandamus was sought from the High Court to the Consumer Foras in Maharashtra not to accept complaints filed against healthcare service providers.
A Bench of the Apex Court comprising of Justice D. Y. Chandrachud and Justice Hima Kohli heard Senior Advocate Siddharth Luthra who appeared for Medicos Legal Action Group, submitted that the Act of 2019 did not include 'healthcare' and it was specifically dropped.
Dismissing the petition Justice Chandrachud observed that, "The word service is wide enough to include "healthcare". The Bombay High Court has rightly said that if they wanted to exclude they would have specifically said so."
The Chandigarh based trust had filed the PIL seeking reliefs on the ground that parliamentary debates on the Consumer Protection Bill, 2018 preceding the 2019 Act led to exclusion of 'healthcare' from the definition of the term "service" as defined in the Bill. The trust had based its contention on the parliamentary debates that had taken place before the passing of the 2019 Act.
The Bombay High Court had dismissed this PIL with costs stating that, "In the context of the 1986 Act and the 2019 Act, there could be no two opinions that the definition of "service" having been read, understood and interpreted by the Supreme Court in Indian Medical Association vs V. P. Shantha and Ors. to include services rendered by a medical practitioner to his patient upon acceptance of fees/charges, the parliamentarians might have thought of not including `health care' as that would have amounted to a mere surplusage. If at all the Parliament while repealing and replacing the 1986 Act with the 2019 Act had intended to give a meaning to the term "service" different from the one given by the Supreme Court, such intention ought to have been reflected in clear words by a specific exclusion of 'health care' from the purview of the 2019 Act."
"We, therefore, hold that mere repeal of the 1986 Act by the 2019 Act, without anything more, would not result in exclusion of 'health care' services rendered by doctors to patients from the definition of the term "service", the High Court had held while dismissing the PIL with a cost of Rs.50,000/-.