Bombay High Court: Holding that mere repeal of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 by the 2019 Act, without anything more, would not result in the exclusion of ‘health care’ services rendered by doctors to patients from the definition of service, the Division Bench of Dipankar Datta CJ and G.S. Kulkarni, J., expressed that present matter is,
“…a thoroughly misconceived Public Interest Litigation and we have no doubt that it deserves outright dismissal.”
In the instant matter, the Trust sought declaration from this Court that services performed by healthcare service providers are not included within the purview of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 as well as for mandamus directing all consumer fora within the territorial jurisdiction of this Court not to accept complaints filed under 2019 Act against healthcare service providers.
Further, the petitioning Trust submitted that the 2019 Act having been brought into force upon the repeal of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, registration of complaints, which were filed against doctors, by the consumer fora in the State of Maharashtra was illegal and shall be declared as such.
Analysis, Law and Decision
In High Court’s opinion, there was no material difference between the definition of service in Section 2(1)(o) of the 1986 Act and in Section 2(42) of the 2019 Act, except for inclusion of ‘telecom’ in Section 2(42) of the 2019 Act, the terms of the definition were identical.
Another significant point noted by the Bench was that Section 2(1)(o) of the 1986 Act did not include services rendered by doctors within the term “service”, but such definition was considered by the Supreme Court in its decision in Indian Medical Association v. V. P. Shantha, (1995) 6 SCC 651.
In view of the above, High Court upheld the decision of NCDRC.
Definition of “service” in both the enactments (repealed and new) are more or less similar and what has been said of “service” as defined in section 2(1)(o) of the 1986 Act would apply ex proprio vigore to the definition of the terms “service” in Section 2(42) of the 2019 Act.
Hence, services rendered by doctors in lieu of fees/charges therefor were not beyond the purview of the 2019 Act.
In view of the above petition was dismissed petitioning Trust was directed to pay Rs 50,000. [Medicos Legal Action Group v. Union of India, 2021 SCC OnLine Bom 3696, decided on 25-10-2021]
Advocates before the Court:
Mr. Ashish S. Chavan a/w Mr. Adithya Iye a/w Mr. Kunal Shinde for petitioner.
Mr. Anil C. Singh, Addl. Solicitor General a/w Mr. Aditya Thakkar a/w Mr. D. P. Singh for respondent-UOI