A division bench of the Bombay high court on Wednesday directed Dr Prafulla Desai, noted surgical oncologist and a Padma Bhushan awardee, to deposit Rs15 lakh with the court.
A single judge bench of justice Roshan Dalvi had passed an order on September 2, holding him liable for breach of contract while treating Leela Singhi in December 1987.
Singhi was suffering from cancer, and the court had asked Dr Desai to pay Rs15 lakh to her husband, PC Singhi.
The division bench of justice DK Deshmukh and justice Anoop Mohta also admitted an appeal filed by Dr Desai challenging the single judge’s order.
Along with the appeal, the noted oncologist had also filed a plea seeking stay of justice Dalvi’s order on various grounds. Arguing on behalf of the oncologist, senior counsel Iqbal Chhagla maintained Dr Desai’s stand that Leela Singhi was not his patient. Chhagla submitted that the contract, if any, was between the patient and the hospital, Bombay Hospital.
The senior counsel sought an unconditional stay of justice Dalvi’s order. The division bench, however, directed the oncologist to deposit with the court the principal amount of Rs 15 lakh, ordered to be paid by him to PC Singhi, saying he had undoubtedly suffered.
In his plea, the oncologist has taken exception to Justice Dalvi’s finding that there was an oral contract between the patient and him, under which the latter had agreed to perform surgery upon her or at least “would be around,” but failed to fulfill the contract. According to Dr Desai, “the contract was not only vague but the two terms of the contract are contradictory to each other.”
“There is no connection shown (not even a remote one) between the alleged non-performance of contract by the appellant (Dr Desai) and the damages allegedly caused to the plaintiffs (Singhi and his deceased wife, Leela),” states the plea.
Decreeing a suit filed by Singhi, a retired IAS officer, Justice Dalvi had severely criticised the noted oncologist, saying he had breached the contract by nonperformance of the surgery and by failing to even “remain around”.