Liability of Health Care Provider in Constitution of India

Liability of Health Care Provider in Constitution of India

The Constitution of India does not guarantee any special rights to the consumer or patient. However, Hon’ble Supreme Court, in various judgements has viewed that the right to life as enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution of India includes the right to health and medical treatment to a sick person. The right of a patient is derivative, and it arises from the obligation of the health care provider.

Enforcement of Rights through Remedies

When a person feels that his life and personal liberty is endangered, he can resort to the Supreme Court or High courts for the enforcement of rights so infringed by state action. When the state fails to protect or preserve the life or liberty of the person, the courts are empowered to grant compensatory relief to such an aggrieved person.

Right to move to the Supreme Court or High Court

Article 32 of the Indian Constitution enshrine the provision to seek redressal for the violation of fundamental rights. Any person may move to the Supreme Court or High Court who is unable to access the law due to their illiteracy or social or economic condition. Supreme Court has the power to issue directions or orders or writs, including writs in nature if habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo-warrants, and certiorari, whichever may be appropriate, for the enforcement any of the rights. Similarly, a person can move to the High Court by appropriate proceedings for the enforcement of the rights conferred and guaranteed under the Constitution and other laws.

Right to life and Health Care

The right to health and access to medical treatment has been included under the purview of Article 21. The principle of the right to life enshrined in Article 21 enlarges its scope to encompass human personality with invigorated health enables him to earn his livelihood, with dignity and equality.2 Lack of health deprives a person of his livelihood.3

Right to Health Care: Judicial View

In Vincent Pani Kurlnagara vs. Union of India4, the question before the Court was that public health is incorporated only in the Directive Principles and it is not enforceable before the Court of law. The Supreme Court observed: “maintenance and improvement of public health have to rank high as these are indispensable to the very existence of the community and on the betterment of these depends on the building of the society which the Constitution makers envisaged. Attending to public health in our opinion, therefore, is of high priority – perhaps the ones at the top for the have not and weaker sections of society, the right to health and medical care is a part of the right to life”.

Furthermore, the Supreme Court in Paschima Banga Khet Mazdoor Samity & Others vs. State of West Bengal & Another5 has held that Article 21 imposes an obligation on the state to safeguard the right to life of every person. The hospitals run by the government are duty-bound to extend medical assistance for preserving human life. Failure on the part of a government hospital to provide timely medical treatment to a person in need of such treatment is against his right to life guaranteed under Art. 21.



The Supreme Court in AS Mittal vs. the State of UP6 while dealing with a PIL on Negligence by doctors in providing services at an eye camp observed that the intention of the camp was noble, but it was a medical catastrophe for the patients. The Court awarded compensation on humanitarian grounds to the affected patients.

In Kusum Sharma vs. Batra Hospital and Medical Research Centre7, it has been observed interalia as follows:-

“Negligence is the breach of a duty exercised by omission to do something which a reasonable man, guided by those considerations which ordinarily regulate the conduct of human affairs, would do, or doing something which a prudent and reasonable man would not do. Negligence is an essential ingredient of the offense. The Negligence to be established by the prosecution must be culpable or gross and not the Negligence merely based upon an error of judgment. A medical practitioner would be liable only where his conduct fell below that of the standards of a reasonably competent practitioner in his field.”



1: Sharma MK, “Right to Health and Medical Care as a Fundamental Right” AIR 2005, Journal, p.255.

2: Consumer Education and Research Centre vs. Union of India, AIR 1995 SC 922.

3: Bharath Kumar K. Palicha vs. the State of Kerala, AIR 1997 Ker. 291.

4: Vincent Pani Kurlnagara vs. Union of India, AIR 1987 SC 990.

5: Paschima Banga Khet Mazdoor Samity & Others vs. State of West Bengal & Another, 1996 4 SCC 37.

6: AS Mittal vs. State of UP, AIR 1989 SC 1571.