India, High Court of Bombay, Aurangabad bench, 27 January 2021, PIL No. 25 of 2020
Deciding body (English)
Type of body
Type of Court (material scope)
Type of jurisdiction
Type of Court (territorial scope)
Further areas addressed
Outcome of the decision
An 82-year-old patient, despite having been transferred from one hospital to another for emergency reasons, was admitted into the general ward rather than the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). During the treatment days in the COVID-19 dedicated hospital, she was reported missing and then found to be dead in a toilet of the same general ward after 7 days.
Among many other orders that were sought from the Court through this petition regarding the conditions of the hospital, the main claim was compensation for the death of the patient. The Court directed the State of Maharashtra to pay the compensation of Rs. 5 lakhs to the legal heirs of the patient on account of violation of Article 21 of the Constitution of India within a period of four months from the date of the decision. The relevant authorities of the Public Health Department of the state were directed to take appropriate action based on the report submitted by the Three Member Committee appointed for the inquiry as well as on the report submitted by the District Collector, as expeditiously as possible.
Facts of the case
A two-member team of the Union ministry of health and family welfare (MoHFW) was sent to the hospital to ascertain the reasons for the constant spike in COVID-19 cases as well as high death rate. The Hospital was declared as a COVID-19 dedicated hospital. The report by the team sent there was that there was mismanagement, negligence, and the abandonment of duties while providing medical treatment to COVID-19 patients at the civil hospital and the Government Medical College.
Apart from citing many instances of negligence from the hospital’s part on the treatment of COVID-19 patients, focus was brought on the patient who died. She was an 82-year-old patient who despite having been transferred from a different hospital to this one for emergency reasons, was admitted into the general ward rather than the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). During the treatment days in the hospital, she was reported missing and then found to be dead in a toilet of the same general ward after 7 days.
Among many other orders that were sought from the Court, the main claim was compensation for the death of the patient.
Type of measure challenged
Measures, actions, remedies claimed
Individual / collective enforcement
Nature of the parties
Type of procedure
Reasoning of the deciding body
On the matter of initiating a high-level inquiry under the Chairmanship of Chief Secretary or any other high-level officer against the Administrative Head of the Operations of the Hospital and other officers and staff responsible for the unfortunate death of the patient, including negligence, the Court said that high-level inquiry had already been set up in the form of a three-member committee.
On the matter of adherence to ICMR guidelines and protocols, the Court reasoned that after the incident of the demise of the patient, proper care was being taken for the isolation of COVID-19 wards and patients were admitted in the designated wards (positive and suspected) wards after due diligence and application in an attempt to restrict the entry and exit to the COVID-19 wards. Further, sufficient ventilators and oxygen cylinders were stocked, CCTV cameras were installed in the COVID-19 wards and ambulance arrangements were made.
On the matter of the demise of the patient, it was held that it was due to the culpable negligence of doctors, staff nurses, and paramedical staff on duty, in providing medical treatment, to the patient who unfortunately died. The doctors, staff nurses, and paramedical staff on duty failed in their duties to provide the best medical treatment to the patient and to take care of, which the hospital administration was required to.
Conclusions of the deciding body
Claim of Petitioner upheld, the PIL disposed of. The State of Maharashtra was to pay the compensation of Rs. 5 lakhs to the legal heirs of the patient who died on the account of the violation of Article 21 of the Constitution of India within a period of four months from the date of the decision. The Principal Secretary, the Public Health Department, and the State of Maharashtra, were directed to take appropriate action on the basis of the report submitted by the Three Member Committee as well as on the report submitted by the District Collector in Jalgaon as expeditiously as possible.
Fundamental Right(s) involved
Fundamental Right(s) instruments (constitutional provisions, international conventions and treaties)
Rights and freedoms specifically identified as (possibly) conflicting with the right to health
General principle applied
Balancing techniques and principles (proportionality, reasonableness, others)
The Court applied the reasonableness principle to the case while considering the steps taken by the hospital to improve its services to the public and by holding it responsible for the negligence on their part in the death of the patient. The Court also placed on record various cases that issued various directions to the State and competent authorities to take certain emergency measures to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus in view of the provisions of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 and Disaster Management Act, 2005.