20 yrs on, Gaunekars gets justice

31 October, 2016

Margao: The Supreme Court, while allowing an appeal filed by a Margao-based chartered accountant, Sheela Naik Gaunekar, alleging medical negligence in the death of her husband, has ordered Apollo Hospitals, Chennai, to pay Gaunekar a compensation of 50 lakh. Of the total amount, 10 lakh has to be paid by Dr Mathews Samuel Kalarickal, the surgeon who had performed angioplasty on Gaunekar's husband.

The order delivered on October 5 by Justices V Gopala Gowda and D Y Chandrachud is a culmination of a 20-year-old legal batte.


Sheela and her departed husband H N Gaunekar are well-known in the field of education and both of them were instrumental in forming Vidya Vikas Mandal, which is today, an educational hub for many educational institutions. Sheela had approached the National Commission Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) for relief, alleging medical negligence by the hospital and Kalarickal, in the treatment of her husband. Her husband was admitted in the hospital for angioplasty treatment, which was conducted on him on May 14, 1996. He died of a heart attack on May 18, four days later.


The Supreme Court, while delivering the judgement, upheld the findings of the commission that there was medical negligence in post-operative care of Sheela's husband. After accepting the findings recorded by the commission on the question of medical negligence and deficiency in service rendered by the hospital, the apex court ruled that, "having regard to the fact that the incident occurred in the year 1996 and the litigation has been going on for nearly 20 years, it would serve the ends of justice to award 40 lakh as compensation. Having further regard to the suffering of the complainant on account of mental agony, loss of head of the family, loss of consortium and loss of love and affection, we deem it fit to award a consolidated sum of 10 lakh...thus, in the interest of justice, we deem it fit to award a total amount of 50 lakh as compensation in toto," the order reads.


Significantly, the NCDRC had awarded a compensation of 2 lakh to Gaunekar, while passing its order. But, Gaunekar challenged the quantum of compensation awarded by the NCRDC and Apollo Hospitals, Chennai, had also questioned the findings of the NCDRC in awarding the compensation, in their respective appeals before the Supreme Court.

The apex court has directed Apollo Hospitals, Chennai, to comply with the order and submit the compliance report within a period of eight weeks from the date of receipt of the order.