NCDRC | Releasing a dead body by a hospital to an unrelated third person unquestionably constitutes ‘deficiency in service’ within the meaning of S. 2(1)(g) & (o) of Consumer Protection Act, 1986

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC): A Division Bench of Dr S.M. Kantikar (Presiding Member) and Dinesh Singh (Member) while addressing the present first appeal held that,

“Releasing a dead body by a hospital to an unrelated third person unquestionably constitutes ‘deficiency in service’ within the meaning of Section 2(1)(g) & (o) of Consumer Protection Act, 1986.”

The present first appeal was filed challenging the compensation amount granted by Kerala State Commission for alleged negligence and deficiency in service from Ernakulam Medical Centre (OP-1) that issued wrong dead body of a patient to some other claimant.

Facts pertinent to the case are that, deceased’s body was kept in the mortuary of the hospital, when deceased’s grandson along with his father came for the release of the same, it came as a surprise that the dead body was not of the deceased. Further, it came to light that, V.K. Ramesh (Pubic Relations Officer) of OP-1 had already released the body to immediate relatives of Lt. Col. A.P. Kanthi who had died a day after the deceased and the body released was cremated with religious rites. Relatives of Lt. Col. A.P. Kanthi admitted their mistake and sought apology and thereafter handed over the ashes of the deceased.

It was alleged that that such callous attitude of OPs in wrongly releasing the dead body of the father of the complainants deprived their right to decent cremation of deceased. Aggrieved with the stated a complaint was filed before Kerala State Commission.

OPs contended that it was neither unfair trade practice nor negligence nor deficiency of service on their part. Complaint cannot be maintainable as the claim raised by complainants was beyond the scope of Consumer Protection Act, 1986.

Further, the State Commission partly allowed the complaint by awarding Rs 25 lakhs as compensation. Aggrieved with the same, OPs filed the first appeal.

Commission in the above view held that, it was negligence and failure of duty of care by the PRO who without proper identification wrongly released the dead body of the deceased. 

Commission also observed that,

“complaint is totally misconceived as 2 of the 4 children of the deceased person have attempted to make a fortune out of the mistake committed by a stranger who bonafidely claimed the body of their deceased father. The State Commission ought to have appreciated that it is trite law that awarding of compensation should be on the basis of cogent grounds.”

Concurring with State Commission’s view, bench stated that the point made by the complainants stands proved, i.e. release of the dead body of the complainants’ father to some other person, and thereby depriving the complainants of the last rites and cremation and final journey of the deceased, is decidedly deficiency in service within the meaning of Section 2(1)(g) & (o) of the Act 1986.

Thus, the compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the complainants would be just and equitable, and would meet the ends of justice. [Ernakulam Medical Centre v. Dr P.R. Jayasree, First Appeal No. 273 of 2017, decided on 12-03-2020]

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