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Sanjeev Verma , Hindustan Times
Chandigarh, July 03, 2013
In a tragic case of 'justice delayed is justice denied', the Punjab and Haryana high court on Tuesday decided a medical reimbursement case in favour of a retired government employee   24 years after his death. The case had lingered on as the Haryana State Electricity Board (HSEB) had been reluctant to pay the medical reimbursement claim of about Rs. 20,000 to its retired commercial assistant, DD Guglani, a resident of Ram Nagar, Panipat, as he had not undergone treatment for a kidney ailment in a government-approved hospital of the state.

The petitioner had submitted that in 1985, when he suffered renal failure (kidney disease), haemo-dialysis treatment was not available in Haryana government hospitals and thus he had to take treatment from a Delhi hospital approved by the central government and later at the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh. Guglani had also retired that year.

When the HSEB initially denied him medical reimbursement, the petitioner, moved the Panipat district court, which gave the verdict in his favour in 1986. But the HSEB appealed against the order before the additional district and sessions judge's court, Karnal; in 1989, the latter set aside the lower court order. This forced Guglani to move the high court in 1989 and the appeal was admitted in August that year without framing any question of law. Later that year, he fell prey to the kidney disease.

Taking a sympathetic view, Justice K Kannan observed on Tuesday, "It must be remembered that the law is not sapped dry of all human compassion. Rules and statutory regulations must be so read that would sub-serve the cause of justice and if need be, tempered with human compassion."

The case came up before justice Kannan as the chief justice issued special orders for early disposal of the case. Justice Kannan also observed, "There was not as if the plaintiff had taken treatment in some hospital for mere fancy. He was in a serious terminal condition when he secured treatment at the PGIMER and at the central government-approved hospital in New Delhi."

The court took the petitioner's evidence itself as sufficient that he had taken treatment at hospitals outside the state only because similar facilities were not available in state-approved hospitals at that time.

"The treatment at the central government-approved hospital or the PGIMER cannot be said to be unrealistically high in comparison to the medical costs in Haryana," the court said.