Madras High Court

Madras High Court– G Chandrasekharan, J. ordered further investigation into the case where a man died under suspicious circumstances and alleged negligence on the part of the Police and the Medical Authorities. The Court thus directed the State to pay compensation to the aggrieved family.

A writ petition was filed seeking issuance for further investigation by an independent agency regarding the suspicious death of the petitioner’s husband, N. Arumugam. The petition also seeks direction to the respondents to pay an exemplary compensation of Rs.25,000 to the petitioner, her three children and the aged father-in-law and mother-in-law who have alleged to been deprived of their means to livelihood due to the death of their husband.

The petitioner contended that after the death of the husband, a final report was filed closing the investigation as ‘charge abated.’ The petitioners also apprehended that her husband might have been hit by a heavy vehicle with a possible involvement of a VIP and her husband was deliberately shown as an accused in order to suppress the true manner in which he suffered injuries. The petitioners highlighted that no surgical intervention was made within due time.

Counsel for the petitioner relied on the judgement of Nilabati Behera v. State of Orissa, (1993) 2 SCC 746, where it was held by the Supreme Court that the relief of monetary compensation as exemplary damages under Article 32 of the Constitution or Article 226 of the High Court is a remedy available in public law and is based on strict liability. Further reliance was placed on the judgement of Supreme Court in DK Basu v. State of West Bengal (1997) 1 SCC 416 where it was held that monetary or pecuniary compensation is an appropriate and effective remedy for redressal of the established infringement of the fundamental right to life of a citizen by the public servants.

It was contended by the respondents that the petitioner’s husband was under the influence of alcohol. It was noted that though he was conscious, he was not able to speak due to his head injury. It was further contended by the respondent that the deceased was mainly responsible for the accident by drunken driving and therefore he was himself shown to be an accused.

Placing reliance on Harish Kumar Khurana v. Joginder Singh, (2021) 10 SCC 291, it was contended that the finding of medical negligence must be based on proper medical evidence on crucial medical aspects. Subsequent reliance was placed on the judgement of Ganesh Nayak v. V. Shamanna, 2022 SCC Online Kar 131 for the proposition that there must be a nexus between the procedure and death of the patient must be established for medical negligence.

The Court noted that the Police Department, especially the Police personnel serving in the Kudimangalam Police Station as well as the Doctors, Nurses and staff members attending the deceased N. Arumugam had violated the fundamental right of the deceased N. Arumugam for competent medical treatment. Therefore, the Court was of the view that the petitioner was entitled for compensation under public law remedy and a Writ of Mandamus could be issued for issuing directions to the first respondent to pay compensation.

The Court directed that there was a need to further investigate the case and relied on the judgement of Kishan Lal v. Dharmendra Bafna, (2009) 7 SCC 685 where it was observed that the learned Magistrate can order further investigation if the same has been found to be tainted or it is necessary for achieving the ends of justice. Further reliance was placed on the case of Vinay Tyagi v. Irshad Ali, (2013) 5 SCC 762 to observe that “fair and proper investigation” has dual purpose of ensuring that the investigation remains unbiased and is in accordance with the law.

For determining the scope of compensation, the Court relied on the judgement of National Insurance Company v. Pranay Sethi, (2017) SCC OnLine SC 1270, where the Court had adopted the procedure followed in Motor Vehicle Accident Cases for fixing the compensation and the compensation for the victim of motor vehicle accident was determined.

The Court directed further investigation into the case and directed the first respondent to pay compensation amount of Rs15,00,000 to the petitioner at 6% interest per annum.

[Muthulakshmi vs The Secretary to the Government of Tamil Nadu, 2022 SCC OnLine Mad 3751, decided on 20-7-2022]

Advocates who appeared in this case :

Mr. M. Purushothaman (In both W. Ps’), Advocate, for the Petitioner;

Mr. P. Kumaresan (In both W. Ps’) Additional Advocate General, for the RR 1, 3, 5 & 8;

Mr. Pratap (In both W. Ps’) Government Advocate, for the RR 2, 4, 6 & 7.

*Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

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