'RETIRED EMPLOYEES CAN SUE GOVT FOR NEGLIGENCE UNDER CGHS'
The verdict, read with a ruling of the SC in 1995 that in-service Central Government employees are consumers under the Central Government Health Service Scheme, now catgorieses the entire working and retired work force as consumers, as far as health care is concerned under the scheme
Lakhs of retired central government employees can rejoice as the apex consumer forum has held them to be the sonsumers under the CGHS schme, thus conferring a right on them to sue the Centre for damage in case of deficiency in health care provided to them and their dependents.
This was unanimous decision of a full Bench of the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) comprising its preseident Justice M.B.Shah, members Rajyalakshi Rao, B.K. Taimni, Justice K.S.Gupta, Justice S.N. Kapoor and P.D.Shenoy.
This verdict, read with a ruling of the Supreme Court in 1995 that in-service central government employees are consumers under the Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS). now categorises the entire working and retired work force of the Central Goverment as consumers, as far as health are is concerned under the scheme.
The question before the NCDRC was "whether a pensioner and beneficiary of the CGHS would be a consumer under the provisions of Consumer Protection Act, 1986, for alleged deficiency in service by the CGHS Medical Officer".
Answering in the affirmative, NCDRC said medical treatment facilities extended to a retired under CGHS could not be termed as 'free service' as it was in consideration of service rendered by him to the government till the age of superannuation, which conferred a right on him to get pension as well as other benefits, including medical treatment presribed by various rules or the schemes framed by the Centre.
"Such employee would be a consumer as defined in Section 2(1)(d)(ii) of the Consumer Protection Act," said Justice Shah , writing for the Bench. Explaining the reason behind the conclusion that would make the retired employees feel less neglected, the NCDRC said service rendered by the government employees before retirement would be "consideration" for providing medical facilities to him or his family members.
"Hence, it cannot be said that the hospital which is subsidised by the government is rendering service free of charge," it said.
The NCDRC verdict came on a petition filed by retired employee Jagdish Kumar Bajpai, throgh advocate Nikhil Nayar, claiming that he was refused medicines for his wife by the CGHS dispensary in Kanpur. He also claimed damages to the tune of Rs. 4 lakh alleging that his wife died due to the negligence of the medical officer.
The above news item appeared in Ahmedabad Edition ofTimes of India dated November 7, 2005
Needless to say that this verdict is relevant to the working and retired employees of ONGC as the Central Government Medical Attednance Rules also apply on ONGC.