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Case Analysis: R.P.Sharma v/s State of Rajasthan

Brief Facts of R.P.Sharma vs State of Rajasthan, A.I.R 2002 Raj. 104.:
In this case, the petitioner is R.P.Sharma and the Respondents are Madhu Chathurvedi (R1) and Dr. Indu Sharma(R2) and main respondent is State of Rajasthan.

The petitioner's wife, late Smt. Kamla Sharma was admitted in SMS hospital, Jaipur on February 23rd, 1988 to remove the gall stone by an operation. The operation of removal of a gall stone was happened on March 7th 1988. The medical staff who is working under the surgeon in the operation advised for blood transfusion to the petitioner's wife, which is of O +ve blood group.

They obtained one bottle of O +ve blood group. She needed more. So, they got one more bottle by R2 from R1 from the blood bank. On the operation day, this was obtained at 9:00 p.m. through R2 and transfused the blood by the nurse to the patient[1]. After 10 minutes of transfusion of blood from second bottle, the condition of petitioner's wife was deteriorated and her state became serious. When the patient's condition was reported by the petitioner's daughter to R2, she didn't pay serious attention as the matter was dealt with extreme negligence.

After 25 minutes of transfusion of blood into the patient's body, R2 received a telephonic call from blood bank, to stop the transfusion of second bottle by removing the bottle from hook as it was of a wrong blood group.

Then the petitioner's daughter came to know that the second bottle of blood was of B +ve. On the next day i.e. March 8th, 1988, the patient's condition became serious and was put to oxygen and the treatment continued. On the same day at night she lost her eyesight. On March 9th, 1988, she was expired at 4:00 p.m.[2]

Name of the Court:
The judgment was pronounced by the Rajasthan High Court.

Name of the Judge:
The judgment was given by Justice S. Keshote.

Date of the Decision:
The decision date was 5th October, 2001.

Arguments Advanced:
The arguments presented by both the parties in the court are discussed:
  1. Arguments by Petitioner:
    1. The petitioner argued that he had sent a notice for demand of justice to the respondents and the respondents did not respond to his notice which caused him to file the petition under the article 226 of the constitution of India.
    2. The counsel contended that the petitioner had lost his wife just because of the negligent act of R1 and R2 as death was caused due to the transfusion of blood of a wrong group. The petitioner's wife who is of 45 years age, having good general health condition could have lived. The petitioner has to suffer with the loss of company, isolation, depression and the mental agony. Thus, petitioner claimed 3,04,000/- for this negligence of R1 and R2. He explained this amount by dividing 2 lakhs for the loss of company of petitioner's wife and 1 lakh for the lack of advise and cooperation of the petitioner's daughter marriage which was the patient's liability to discharge it, if she would not have died and the 4,000/- spent for the treatment in the hospital.
    3. The counsel for petitioner argued that the State of Rajasthan has not acted fairly and reasonably, being a welfare state. The counsel for the petitioner argued that the state of Rajasthan is vicariously liable for the negligent acts of the two doctors of the state of Rajasthan.
    4. At last, it was contended that the State of Rajasthan has to pay compensation to the petitioner as he lost his wife and the counsel said that petitioner has made a claim of moderate amount though his loss of wife cannot be compensated at this stage.
  2. Arguments by Respondent:
    1. In this case, the counsel for the respondents informed that the R2 had clearly admitted the truth of their negligence part on the patient's treatment. It is beyond the doubt that the death of the petitioner's wife occurred due to the transfusion of wrong bottled blood to the petitioner's wife.
    2. Then the counsel for the respondents contended that the determination of the compensation and the damage will be beyond the jurisdiction of this court under Article 226 of the Constitution of India.[3]
    3. The counsel had argued that the facts are disputed and can be determined by regular enquiry only or by a civil court.
    4. The counsel raised the objection that the amount of compensation claimed is also without any basis and documents. The counsel contended that the petitioner had not shown any proof that he has made so heavy expenses.

  1. The court held that the petition against the respondent succeeds and the same is allowed as it is clear cut case of the negligence of the doctors of the State of Rajasthan.
  2. The court has directed the State of Rajasthan to pay the interest on the amount of compensation to the petitioner at the rate of 12% per annum from the date of filling the petition i.e. October 4th, 1988 till the payment date. The court said the state of Rajasthan to pay 2000/- to the cost of petition filled by the petitioner.
  3. The court held that the State of Rajasthan has to pay the entire amount within one month from the date of receipt of the certified copy of the order.
  4. It also held that the State of Rajasthan can recover the amount from the doctors who are responsible for the loss of patient due to their negligence.

Ratio Decidendi
  1. In the present case, R1 was found to be responsible for the supply of wrong blood group bottle which he gave to the R2. The R2 was also not present at that time of transfusion of blood as it was transfused by the nurse.
  2. Here R1 and R2 are liable for the negligence and they are the cause of death. They did not verify whether the bottle contains the essential blood group fluid or not.
  3. The behavior of the nurse on duty was also not correct with the daughter of the petitioner as nurse did not inform the reason for stopping the transfusion of blood when they got call from the blood bank.
  4. The court held that R1 and R2 breached the duty of care that it owed to the patient and hence was guilty of committing negligence.
  5. The court had constituted enquiry committee. After the enquiry, in the final report, it was submitted that R2 has committed that one blood bottle was wrongly supplied because of which it caused the death of the petitioner's wife. Considering this, the court held that R1 and R2 caused severe harm to patient's condition. As R1 and R2 had committed negligence and the state is vicariously liable for this act, the petitioner was entitled to compensation.
  6. Here, the judge declared his decision based on the concept of Vicarious Liability. Because it is a clear case of negligence of the servants of the state of Rajasthan. So, the state that is responsible for the running of the hospital was held vicariously liable for the death of the patient which was caused due to the negligence of the hospital staff. So, as the medical negligence by a government servant is a serious matter, state has vicarious liability.

Analysis of the Case
In this case, R.P. Sharma vs State of Rajasthan, the petitioner's wife was expired because of the transfusion of wrong blood group i.e. B +ve. The patient actually needed was O +ve. The wrong bottle was supplied by R1 and later R2 did not verify the blood group bottle. Without the presence of R2, the nurse who is on duty transfused the blood to the patient. They stopped the transfusion of wrong blood after they got call from the blood bank stating that the bottle was of B +ve blood group. As 25 minutes was passed, the condition of the patient became serious.

After that, doctors continued the treatment by putting oxygen to the patient. After losing her eyesight on March 8th, she was expired on March 9th. In the death certificate of the deceased, the cause mentioned was Cardio respiratory arrest. As per the medical jurisprudence[4], it was submitted that one of the cause of the death due to cardio respiratory arrest is transfusion of blood of wrong group. This was the proof of negligence by the doctors.

There are 3 duties of a doctor towards the patient which are the following:
  1. Duty of care in deciding whether to undertake the case.
  2. Duty of care in deciding what treatment to give.
  3. Duty of care in the administering of treatment.

This was held in the case of Dr. Lakshman Balkrishna Joshi vs. Trimbak Bapu Godbole[5]. The apex court held that breach of any of these duties gives of right action to the patient for negligence.

Later, the hospital administration had conducted an enquiry into this incident. And the preliminary enquiry was conducted by Dr. P.K. Wan-choo and Dr. F.S.K Barar. The petitioner and his daughter had explained everything about the incident. The committee held that R1 and R2 are responsible for death of the patient. R2 had also admitted that cause of death was because of their act.

The petitioner claimed the court that under the compensation of 3,04,000/-. He explained the amount by dividing as 2 lakhs for the loss of his wife, 1 lakh for the lack of cooperation and advice of petitioner's daughter marriage, 4,000/- for the treatment in hospital. As R1 and R2 failed to respond to the notice for demand of justice of petitioner, the petitioner filed this petition. The report of the enquiry committee was submitted to the government for further action.

The learned counsel for the petitioner held that State of Rajasthan will be held liable for negligence of the doctors. The negligence has been accepted by the respondent State of Rajasthan.

The court held that this is a Vicarious Liability[6] of the State of Rajasthan. The court directed the State of Rajasthan to award the compensation to the petitioner. The officers of the State discharged their duties negligently and carelessly which resulted in the death of the wife of the petitioner. So, the state should bear the consequences. But state can recover the amount of compensation paid to the petitioner from those negligent doctors.

The court held that the burden of responsibility lies on R1. Thought the loss of one life cannot be compensated in terms of money, the court had directed the State of Rajasthan to pay the interest on the amount of 3,04,000/- at the rate of 12% per annum from Oct 4, 1988 (date of filing petition till the payment date and 2,000/- for the cost of filing the petition by the petitioner. The time period was 1 month for the payment.

Laws Applied:
The R.P.Sharma vs State of Rajasthan case is about the medical negligence which comes under the law of torts.

The law applied in this case was Vicarious Liability. In general, there is a rule that the person is liable for his own acts only. In the field of torts, it is considered as an exception to the general rule. So, this vicarious liability deals with cases where one person is responsible for the acts of others. The concept of Vicarious Liability is based on the principle of qui facit per se per alium facit per se, which means 'He who does an act through another is deemed in law to do it himself.[7]

There are certain constituents involved in the concept of Vicarious Liability are:
  1. There must be a relationship of a certain kind.
  2. The wrongful act must be related to the relationship in a certain way.
  3. The wrong has been done within the course of employment.
In this case, the SMS Hospital is running by the Government of Rajasthan. The doctors in the hospital are considered as servants of the government. The servants committed negligence, within the course of their employment. So, the state is vicariously liable for the act of the doctors.

  1. Keshote, R.P. Sharma vs State of Rajasthan And Anr., October 5, 2001.
  2. Keshote, R.P. Sharma vs State of Rajasthan And Anr., October 5, 2001
  3. S.K. Keshote, R.P. Sharma v/s State of Rajasthan & Others, <>, October 5, 2001.
  4. Medical jurisprudence is the branch of the law that deals with the application of law to medicine or, conversely, the application of medical science to legal problems. Medical jurisprudence may be involved in cases concerning genetic relationships (eg, paternity testing) or injury or death resulting from violence.
  5. AIR 1969 SC 128: (1969) 1 SCR 206
  6. Vicarious liability is a situation in which one party is held partly responsible for the unlawful actions of a third party. The third party also carries his or her own share of the liability. Vicarious liability can arise in situations where one party is supposed to be responsible for (and have control over) a third party and is negligent in carrying out that responsibility and exercising that control.
  7. Preeti Singh, Vicarious Liability in India, <,of%20another%20person%2C%20may%20arise.>
Written By: Gajjala Ramesh Bhavani - Pursuing 1st year of BA.LLB(Hons.) at Alliance School of Law, Alliance University, Bangalore.

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