Inquiry Ordered Into Death of New Born Baby, Over Alleged Doctor Negligence

The New Delhi based statutory child-rights body, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, (NCPCR) asked the deputy commissioner of Hailakandi district of the North East Indian state Assam for a report on how the first child of Mr Bijoy Dev and Mrs Tumpa Dev of Ward No. 13 at College Road in Hailakandi town died on 1 April 2012 after delivery.

The nation’s child rights watchdog moved into action after receiving a complaint from the Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) on 11 April. It was alleged that the child died due to negligence and dereliction in duties by the doctors of the Sontush Kumar Civil Hospital of Hailakandi. The NCPCR registered the case based on the complaint as case No. 13016/32389/2010-11/COMP.

The BHRPC alleged that Mrs Dev went in labour, and was brought to the S K Roy Civil Hospital at about 1pm on 30 March. No doctors saw the woman and with the help of nurses, she gave birth to a male child. It was a forced birth as some doctors who later examined the baby and his mother said she was in need of caesarian section and that complications leading to the death arose due to the injuries caused to the baby during delivery. The condition of both the mother and child started to worsen soon thereafter. Still no doctors in the hospital saw them. They then went to the Silchar Medical College and Hospital, Silchar (SMCH) and the baby died there at about 6pm on 1 April.

According to BHRPC, this appears to be a clear case of causing death by negligence within the meaning of section 304A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, even keeping in mind the rules laid down by the Supreme Court of India in Jacob Mathew Vs State of Punjab (2005) (Appeal (Crl.) 144-145 of 2004) for application of the section in cases of negligent and rash acts or omissions of doctors. Most importantly, it is a prima facie case of violations of fundamental right to life as laid down in Article 21 of the Constitution of India. In a catena of cases, the Supreme Court held that the right to health care is a part of the right to life.

The rights group also claimed that the negligent conduct of the doctors, particularly that caused the death of the baby also amounts to violations of the rights enshrined in Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948. The allegations also constitute violations of provisions of legally binding human rights instruments to which India is a state party. Such as the right to life provided under Article 6 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, 1966. As a positive entitlement, the right to health and health care is recognised in Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1966. Further, it is also a case of violations of relevant provisions of other United Nations conventions, such as Article 12 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, 1979 (CEDAW) and Article 6 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989 (CRC).

The case also falls under section 13 (1) (j) of the Commissions for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005.

Secretary Lov Barma wrote on 17 April 2012 (vide No AS-13016/32389/2010-11/COMP/10930) to the Hailakandi Deputy Commissioner, Mr A Nanda Babu Singha, asking for a report within a moth.

After receiving the notice, Mr Singha formed a three-member inquiry committee on 3 May 2012, headed by the Hailakandi circle officer Dhrubajyoti Dev. The other two members are the joint director of health and the district programme officer of the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM). Mr Singha asked the committee to file their report within 15 days.