Her eight-year-long battle for justice ended on a victorious note on Monday, when the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission upheld an order passed by the state commission, for a fine of Rs 7 lakh to be imposed on the Kandivli based ayurvedic doctor, for deficiency in service. The amount will be paid as compensation to Pratibha.
On August 20, 2004, Panddurang Gamre, the deceased, who worked as deputy superintendent with the BMC, approached Dr R R Singh, who ran an ayurvedic clinic. Gamre was accompanied by Pratibha. The victim told the doctor about a searing pain in his legs. According to Pratibha, Singh told her that her husband’s illness was serious, and could lead to paralysis. The couple was asked to pay Rs 2,700 for tests and medication, after which Gamre was admitted to Singh’s clinic.
Unsure about the proceedings, Pratibha requested that Singh discharge her husband, as he could avail of free treatment in a civic hospital, being a BMC employee. Singh, however, convinced her against the move. That night, Gamre was left under the care of Singh’s compounder. Gamre’s condition deteriorated at about 3 am, and the compounder, instead of summoning Singh, administered saline and medication prescribed by him. Gamre died within hours.
A police complaint was lodged and in 2006, after which Singh was convicted by the Sewree fast track court, under the Maharashtra Medical Practitioners Act. The Act bars doctors trained in ayurvedic healing from prescribing allopathic drugs.Singh was then released on probation and ordered to pay Rs 25,000 as compensation to Pratibha. Feeling that the meagre amount did not compensate for the loss of her husband, Pratibha went on to file a consumer complaint in 2007. On March 9 last year, the Mumbai suburban district’s Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum rejected Pratibha’s complaint, citing the fact that Pratibha had already received Rs 25,000 as compensation.
Pratibha then appealed against the order to the state’s consumer commission, which ordered that a fine of Rs 7 lakh be levied on Singh. Before the National Consumer Commission, Singh’s lawyer argued that the post mortem reports suggested that Gamre had died of a heart attack. He also pointed out that the Sessions Court had acquitted the doctor of culpable homicide.
However, the Commission upheld the state commission’s order after considering medical reports and opinions. The bench, comprising members JM Malik and Suresh Chandra observed, “The condition of the deceased was alarming. Singh should not have admitted him in his clinic. He should have advised the patient to move to some renowned hospital. It is difficult to fathom how and why drugs like Betnesol, Decadron and Neurobion were prescribed without consulting any allopathic doctor. It is difficult to understand how he switched over to allopathy without having any knowledge of the same. A doctor should play with people’s lives for his personal gain.”