By Yukta Bissa

CITATION1989 AIR 2039, 1989 SCR (3) 997
DATE OF CASE28 August 1989
APPELLANTPt. Parmanad Katara
RESPONDENTUnion of India
BENCH/JUDGEJustice Ranganath Misra
STATUES INVOLVEDConstitution of India,1950 , Indian Penal Code,1860, Criminal Procedure Code,1973 The Medical Ethics Code, 1970.
IMPORTANT ARTICLES & SECTIONS INVOLVEDArticle 21 & 32 of the Indian Constitution and Clause 10 and 13 of the Medical Ethics Code, 1970, Section 161 of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973


This case is a PIL (Public Interest Litigation) which was filed in general interest of the public, protecting their right to life and heart. The case was contested after the death of a victim of road accident due to the delay in his treatment by the medical practitioners. The doctors at the hospital advised the people with victim to take him to a government hospital which particularly dealt with the such medico-legal cases. The PIL was filed by Pt. Parmanand Katara, a human rights activist, to remove this obstruction of zonal jurisdiction of the hospitals. It was pleaded before the Hon’ble Supreme Court to  issue guidelines and give clarification that the doctors at both private and government hospitals much priorities the life of the injured person rather than indulging in the legal formalities first. The legal formalities are important as they are used as an evidence, but not as much as someone’s life.

The fear in the minds of the people helping the victim and doctor, regarding the indulgence in interrogation by police officers and cross-examination in the courts should be removed and hence the apex court gave direction for protection of both, the “Good Samaritans” and the doctors. It was ruled that the doctors are bound to use their expertise and skills fully to save lives of the people, especially in the emergency cases and abide by their oath, and must not worry about the litigation process.


The present case is related to Public Interest Litigation, this is also known as the Good Samaritan Case. Here a human rights activist, Pandit Paramanad Katara, currently a senior advocate, approached the Supreme Court by filing a PIL. PIL stands for Public Interest Litigation, it is filed in court of law in general interest of the public. It is an effective instrument which works towards social welfare and economic justice. Through PIL judicial activism has flourished in India. In the present case a PIL was filed on the basis of a newspaper article published in the Hindustan Times, in the year 1988, titled ‘the Law helps the injured to die”. As our Constitution guarantees Right to Life under Article 21, it also includes Right to health. This particular case was a landmark judgement in regards to right to health and it enlarged the ambit of jurisprudence of emergency medical care in India, which made it compulsory for doctors both private and public to provide emergency medical services to a victim of road accident.

The hospital and doctors cannot make any excuses like  this is a police case or referring the patient to some other hospital without even starting the treatment. Finally court established the guidelines that saving life of the patient must be prioritized and not the legal  formalities and also ensured prevention of medical practitioners from the legal proceedings of the courts, unless the under necessary circumstances.


This PIL was filed by Pandit Paramanad Katara under article 32 of the Indian Constitution. It discussed the circumstances which lead to the death of a scooterist who was hit by a speeding car. Even though he was take to a nearest hospital by an witness of the accident, he was not admitted there and was denied treatment. It was advised to take the victim of the accident to a government hospital, that was some 20 kilometers’ away and which had the authority to particularly attend such medico-legal cases.

In this case, the petitioner has prayed that the directions must be issued by the Apex court to the Union of India that every injured person who has been brought to hospital and is in need of emergency treatment, should be instantaneously attended by the doctors and should be given the medical aid to preserve his/her life. The procedure for criminal law and other legal formalities can be completed thereafter to avoid any negligent death. Nevertheless in case of any such negligence, appropriate compensation should be admissible.

Nevertheless time was wasted unnecessarily. Unfortunately, he scummed to the injuries on the way to the government hospital. The news report regarding this incident led Pt. Paramanad Katara (Petitioner) to take action against such behaviour and negligence of the doctors and the hospital.

Further in the case the protection of the Good Samaritan, i.e., a person without any expectation of payment or reward or having any relationship, voluntarily comes to assist the victim of a road accident or need of emergency medical condition, was also demanded.

The secretary, Ministry of health and family welfare of India, the medical council of India and the Indian Medical Association (respondents) also agreed with the petitioner, nevertheless contended with a few important clauses from the Medical Ethics Code, 1970.  Here, the necessity to attend the injured people right away without waiting for the police report or completion of the legal formalities was recognized  and  the Union of India was requested to take requisite steps with immediate effect, to amend various provisions of law which hinder the working of government doctors as well as other doctors in private hospitals or public hospitals in this regard.”[1]


  • Whether a victim of road accident can be treated by the doctor without prior legal formalities?
  • Whether there are any such legal provisions which prevent timely treatment of the injured person?


The learned Counsel for petitioner submitted that the directions must be issued by the Union of India that every injured person brought to the hospital for emergency treatment, should be attended instantaneous and shall be given the medical aid to preserve the persons life and all the legal formalities and procedure of criminal law should be dealt with later on, in order to avoid negligent death of the patient. Furthermore, in case of any negligence on the part of the medical authorities, appropriate compensation should be paid to the victim or his family.

The learned counsel for the petitioner, said that the clause 12 and clause 13 of Code of Medical Ethics, 1970 represent the duty imposed on doctors and practitioners to serve and treat those injured to their best without rescuing themselves from performing their professional duty.

The learned counsel emphasised that the medical council itself expects the doctors to perform their duties willfully, without any negligence and priority should be avoiding death of the victim of the accident. Further, the Medical ethics code of 1970, other legislations like Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, Indian Penal Code, 1860 and Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 did not restrict the medical authorities and practitioners from giving medical aid before fulfillment of all the legal formalities.[2]

Considering the ground reality, the practitioners are in confusion regarding the provisions and always want to steer clear from litigation . This is to be understood that human life is more important than the all the formalities, hence the above mentioned laws & procedures need to be amended and implemented to save the valuables lives of the victim.


The learned counsel for the respondents was in line with the views and demands of the petitioners, they contended with 2 relevant clauses, they are :

Firstly, the learned counsel for the respondent stated, clause 10 of Medical Ethics Code, 1970 which states that although a physician is not bound to treat every ailing person, however in an emergency case like that of a road accident, it practitioner becomes duty bound to provide the needed medical aid appropriate. [3]

And secondly the learned counsel for the respondent said that, Clause 13 of the Medical Ethics Code, 1970, mentions that the freedom of medical practitioners to choose who they want to treat is available to them, except in emergency, cases, where saving life of the injured person becomes the need of the time. It also stated that medical practitioners have no right to withdraw themselves from treatment, in such emergency cases.

It was clear on the respondent’s side that Government of India raised no objections, the decisions taken in this regard by the Director – General of Health Services were such as :  “It is critical for the medical officer on duty to report to the constable on duty the details of the injured, such as his name, location and time of incident, and so on, if his case falls under the category of medico-legal.”

The arrival of police officers or such other legal procedures shall have no bearing on the treatment of the injured. Regardless of the location of the accident, medico-legal proceedings must be handled by the hospital/medical institution (both private as well as public). The government shall not deny anyone medical treatment, on account of the cases being medico-legal in nature.”[4]


  • Constitution Of India, 1950 

Article 21 :

“Protection of life and personal liberty No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.” [5]

Article 32 :

“Remedies for enforcement of rights conferred by this Part

  1. The right to move the Supreme Court by appropriate proceedings for the enforcement of the rights conferred by this part is guaranteed.[6]
  • The Supreme Court shall have power to issue directions or orders or writs, including writs in the nature of habeas corpus, mandamus, Prohibition, quo warranto and certiorari, whichever may be appropriate, for the enforcement of any of the rights conferred by this part.[7]
  • Without prejudice to the powers conferred on the Supreme Court by clause ( 1 ) and ( 2 ), Parliament may by law empower any other court to exercise within the local limits of its jurisdiction all or any of the powers exercisable by the Supreme Court under clause ( 2 ).[8]
  • The right guaranteed by this article shall not be suspended except as otherwise provided for by this Constitution.” [9]
  • Medical Ethics Code, 1970

Clause 10

“Obligation to the Sick – A medical professional is not bound to perform their duties in any emergency case and attend an injured person it is the duty of a medical professional to provide proper treatment and service regarding any kind of delay in the time of need.”[10]

Clause 13

“Patients not be Neglected- The freedom of the medical practitioner should not extract himself or attending patients during any kind of delay and secure deliberate commission of dereliction of duty.[11] and not neglect the patients who are being treated.”

  • Criminal Procedure Code

Section 161

“Examination of witnesses by police: provides for oral examination of a person by any investigating officer when such person is supposed to be acquainted with the facts and circumstances of the case.”[12]


As this case dealt with the issues regarding immediate treatment of road accident victims, the erudite judges here recognized that the subject could not be avoided since it was a matter of public health and importance. Article 21 of our Constitution clearly states that it is the duty of the State to preserve the life of all its citizens and provides them the Fundamental Right to health. There can be no doubt that the preservation of human life is of the utmost significance. Once a life is lost, it cannot be resurrected because resurrection is beyond man’s ability. Every doctor, whether at a government hospital or otherwise, has a professional obligation to provide appropriate skills to protect life and when a medical expert is called upon or requested to attend to an injured individual who need immediate medical care, there is no legal restriction.

The reason for establishing medical formalities in such circumstances was to keep the evidence intact. However, delays were caused by the procedure’s inherent flaws. The Court also observed that the general public was hesitant to assist those who had been hurt because they were scared of being called to testify as witnesses or appear in court. Hence the court made rules for protection of the “Good Samaritans”.

According to the Hon’ble apex court, there were no obstructions generated by the legislative framework that prevented a practitioner from providing therapy. He also stated that it was the public’s and the police’s responsibility to save lives, and that any concerns about this had to be addressed for everyone. To ease practitioners’ deep-seated fear of being summoned to court, the learned judges ruled that practitioners be taken to police stations only in necessary circumstances. It was also emphasised that courts had to disperse cases quickly and not take up too much of practitioners’ time if they were summoned for cross-examination or to present evidence.

Thus this landmark judgement stated that every doctor, whether at a government hospital or a private hospital or otherwise, has a professional obligation to protect life by giving immediate medical aid and treatment to the victims of road accidents. No law or state action can be used to evade or postpone the discharge of the primary obligation imposed on members of the medical profession.  The Court directed that the verdict in this case be given due publicity by the national media, Doordarshan, and All India Radio, as well as through the High Courts and Sessions Judges.


Paramanad Katara vs Union Of India is a landmark judgement which ensures preservation of life and makes the life of patients of utmost importance. In the this case, both the parties agreed with each with no objections and changes were made accordingly in the required laws and the procedure regarding them. It is to be noted that the fulfillment legal formalities after a road accident are necessary to be kept as an evidence, which are of importance if there’s to be an actual criminal case.

 However, undoubtedly, nothing more valuable than a humans’ precious life and the procedural changes were made and it was advised to both, private and government medical professionals, that treatment should be given to the injured person as soon as he or she reaches the hospital.

This issue was raised by Pandit Paramanad Katara, his efforts are laudable. He raised this issue to mainly remove the zonal jurisdiction, which acted as an obstruction whenever any medico-legal case arrived at a hospital, like that of the road accidents. The excess legal formalities and fear of police and courts in the minds of both, the people who help the victim by taking him to a hospital and the medical practitioners, makes delays in the beginning of treatment. Unfortunately, due to lack to clarification regarding the laws and codes of medical field, generally doctors extracted themselves from treating the victims of the road accident. This problem was also fixed after this case, as the court order that doctors must be included in the litigation process for interrogation and cross-examination, only the case of necessary circumstances and not otherwise.

 The courts should make every effort not to summon medical practitioners to give testimony unless the evidence is relevant; but, if they are summoned, every effort should be made not to waste their valuable time. As a result, these observations were taken in order to prevent harassment of healthcare professionals. Also, the statement of witness has to be taken by a police officer orally, if he/she is supposed to be acquainted with the facts and circumstances of the case, according to section 161 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

The judgement of this case would help public at large, and would help in smooth and accurate functioning of the medical institutions. They would now do their duties without any fear of getting indulged in court hearing ruckus, and would put their efforts only to perform their foremost duty, i.e., preserving lives of people. The Hon’ble judge’s direction to make the amendments in laws and making this verdict reach to each and every citizen, was a pragmatic solution to this problem.

[1] Indian Kanoon,, (last visited on 19 June, 2023)

[2] Ms.Anamanamudi Sabari Deeksha Choudary, india.html#:~:text=This%20is%20a%20landmark%20judgment,victim%20of%20a%20road%20accident, (last visited on 19 June 2023).

[3], (last visited 19 June, 2023).

[4] Blog.Ipleaders, (last visited 19 June, 2023).

[5] The Constitution of India, 1950, Art. 21.

[6] The Constitution of India, 1950, Art. 32(1).

[7] The Constitution of India, 1950, Art. 32(2).

[8] The Constitution of India, 1950, Art. 32(3).

[9] The Constitution of India, 1950, Art. 32(4).

[10] Code of Medical Ethics, 1970, Clause 10.

[11] Code of Medical Ethics, 1970, Clause 13.

[12] Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, Section 161.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Richa(meenu)

    Very good yukta keep it up . The article 32 very well explained

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