The Apex Court bench comprising of Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Hemant Gupta, in the matter of Anjana Agnihotri & Anr. v. State of Harayana & Anr. recently held that dragging medical professionals into criminal proceedings should be kept to a minimum and should be done only in cases where negligence of high order can be shown.

In the present case, it was alleged that a doctor caused medical negligence of a patient after performing caesarean operation which resulted in her death. The Trial Court had allowed her application which was challenged in appeal in this case. Subsequently, the Appellate Court reversed this order of the lower Court.

The Court placed much reliance on the case of Jacob Mathew v. State of Punjab (2005) where the Court had held that in criminal law, medical professionals are placed on a different pedestal than common men. To prosecute a medical professional under criminal law, something in addition to negligence would have to be proved. The Court had noted that the profession of medical practitioners was such that it often required them to take instant decisions for the benefit of their patients and make choices that are the most profitable for the patients, to the best of their knowledge. And if in such cases, these decisions turned out to be wrong, they cannot be held liable for it.

It was further observed by the Court during this case that in such cases it is of the essence to show that the accused medical professional did or omitted to do something that no medical professional in his ordinary senses and prudence would have done or failed to do. This judgement had laid down certain guidelines to be followed to regulate the prosecution of doctors for offences of alleged criminal negligence.

The Court in the present case held that the actions of the accused doctor, even if they amount to negligence, fall beyond the ambit of the Jacob Mathew case and thereby allowed the appeal.

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Link for Judgement: Anjana Agnihotri v. State of Haryana