The Delhi High Court on 26 April 2017 said that hospitals cannot hold patients hostage to extract money for unpaid bills.
The ruling came in a habeas corpus plea moved by the son of the patient - a former Madhya Pradesh policeman - who was admitted for treatment in a premier private hospital in Delhi in February 2017. The patient's son had alleged that the hospital was holding his father hostage to extract money from him towards outstanding dues of 13.45 lakh rupees.
While hearing the plea of the son, the High Court bench of Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Deepa Sharma said even if dues are outstanding, custody of patients cannot be withheld to extract money towards unpaid bills of the hospital.
The court also directed the hospital, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, to prepare the discharge summary of the patient and allowed his son to remove his father forthwith from the hospital.
Key facts of the judgement
• The court denounced the modus operandi of withholding the custody of the patients and asked the hospital to release the patient.
• The court also denounced the practice of the hospital
The patient was suffering from enterocutaneous fistula, which occurs in the intestinal tract due to which contents of the stomach or intestines leak through to the skin. The treatment includes surgery.
Habeas Corpus Plea
Habeas corpus is recourse in the law whereby a person can report an unlawful detention or imprisonment before a court, usually through a prison official or the institution. A habeas petition proceeds as a civil action against the State agent who holds the defendant in custody.
Privilege of the writ of habeas corpus
A writ of habeas corpus is a court order to a person, who can be a prison warden or agency or institution that holds someone in custody to deliver the imprisoned individual to the court issuing the order.