Frustrated with his 22-year struggle to get justice for his wife, Leela, a cancer patient who he alleged died due to medical negligence, retired Indian Administrative Service officer, PC Singhi, has said committing suicide is the only option for him.
A criminal case against Dr Prafulla Desai, then an oncologist at Bombay Hospital, for alleged medical negligence in his wife's treatment is going on before Esplanade court. Singhi has also approached the Bombay High Court and demanded compensation of Rs. 25 lakh. Both cases are pending.
"I have lost faith in the judiciary," the 83-year-old wrote in a recent letter to the Supreme Court (SC). "My frustration has reached a height where suicide seems to be the only course of relief for me."
The metropolitan magistrate's court last week discharged Dr Desai's former assistant, Dr AK Mukherjee, who was named accused in the case although Singhi had not included his name in the complaint.
It began in September 1988 when Singhi wrote to the state's director general of police alleging medical negligence during his wife's cancer treatment. The Azad Maidan police filed a first information report only on May 14, 1991, after the Maharashtra Medical Council held Dr Desai guilty of violating medical ethics.
Singhi, who is also suffering from cancer and has lost vision in right eye, had sought orders to the Esplanade metropolitan magistrate's court for speedy disposal of the case. He did not receive any response from the apex court except one, which said letters to the apex court should be addressed to its registrar general. Singhi wrote to the registrar general on October 19 pointing out that his case has been pending for more than two decades.
He wrote that the trial courts had failed to comply with the SC's order dated April 3, 2003 that the case be disposed of within a year. The SC had also introduced video conferencing into criminal justice system with this case. Singhi, who is arguing his own case, is now likely to examine Dr Mukherjee as his witness. The case has seen more than 400 adjournments.
Singhi has spent Rs 10 lakh on the case, a lot of which came from his pension and the rest from friends. Advice from senior lawyers including retired justice S Radhakrishnan, Raju Moray, Tejas Bhat and Shivaji Satpute helped. "I fought these cases only in public interest," he said, adding that he will use the compensation, if he receives it, for charity.
When video conferencing entered Indian courts
Retired bureaucrat PC Singhi's legal battle in an alleged case of medical negligence in treatment of his wife Leela, a cancer patient, led to an important development in the Indian judicial system.
It was during this case that the Supreme Court first allowed the use of video conferencing to examine a witness, Dr Ernest Greenberg of Sloan-Kettering Memorial Hospital in New York.
Dr Greenberg was a crucial witness for Singhi who had alleged that then Bombay Hospital oncologist Dr Praffulla Desai had disregarded the US-based doctor's opinion that his wife was "inoperable" and went ahead with her surgery. When Singhi contacted Dr Greenberg, he expressed inability to travel to Mumbai because of age but he agreed to testify through video conferencing.
In July 1998, Singhi filed an application in the Esplanade metropolitan magistrate's court for allowing the prosecution to examine Dr Greenberg on Singhi's behalf through video link. A year after the trial court allowed Singhi's plea saying the use of reliable new technology should be allowed in criminal trials, Dr Desai challenged the order before the Bombay High Court. The HC reversed the trial court's order saying the witness will be unavailable for action if he committed perjury.
Singhi moved the SC, which upheld the Esplanade court's view in April 2003. Dr Greenberg was examined through video link over four sessions. Singhi has also helped patients to get medical records.