Supreme court : Mens Rea is not necessary in medical negligence cases

The complainant had filed a case under various Sections of the Indian Penal Code, Section 304 ( punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder), Section 316 (Causing death of quick unborn child by act amounting to culpable homicide) and Section 34( acts done in furtherance of common intention).

Based on the complaints filed, the Magistrate had issued summons to the accused. The accused approached the High Court, challenging the summons order of the Magistrate.

The High Court quashed the summons order on the grounds that there was no evidence of mens rea or any malicious intention.

The present case is an appeal against the decision of the High Court. The appeal was heard by Justice A.M Khanwilkar and Justice Sanjiv Khanna.

The Bench relied upon the case of Jacob Mathew v. State of Punjab, which had laid down the guidelines for examination of doctors in case of medical negligence. As per this guidelines, before summoning the accused in a criminal medical negligence complaint, the complainant has to lead medical evidence and or examine a professional doctor to support the claims made.

The Bench was of the opinion that mens rea is not a necessary element for medical negligence.

The Bench also observed that in the present case, the Trial Court failed to comply with the guidelines laid down and did not insist on a medical examination.

On basis of non-compliance, the Bench set aside both orders (Of High Court and of Trial Court) and relegated the parties before the Trial Court for reconsideration of the issue afresh.

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