In a decision aimed at making public authorities more accountable,a city court has directed the Delhi government to pay Rs 2 lakh as compensation to the parents of an infant who died after being administered with Pulse Polio drops in 1999.
The court held that the government was obligated to not only run public health programmes like Pulse Polio,but was also duty bound to protect people from the probable side-effects of the vaccine.
The constitutional obligation of the Government to improve public health is not confined to introducing programmes and administering medicines but extends to protecting a child under such a programme from all the consequential effects, said Additional District Judge (ADJ) Kamini Lau.
Five-month-old Nishu started vomiting after she was vaccinated in Najafgarh on November 21,1999.
By November 23,her condition deteriorated despite being given medicines earlier at the Government Hospital in Zaffarpur. At 1.30 am,her grandfather Rajpal rushed her to the hospital where,according to the petition,the staff was found sleeping,and despite repeated requests,a doctor was not called. Instead,Rajpal was asked to take the child to the DDU Hospital.
Suffering with acute respiratory distress and diarrhoea,Nishu succumbed on way to the DDU Hospital.
Authorities cannot shun their legal responsibility in case a person falls sick or loses life after being administered with medicines,for not only the improvement of public health but also the protection of life is the primary duty of the government, ADJ Lau said.
The court also criticised the condition of government hospitals in the Capital and asked the government to improve it.
In any programme of immunisation involving administration of drops,the possibility of side-effects cannot be ruled out and it is necessary for the government to gear up its machinery to meet such an eventuality, ADJ Lau said.
Rajpal led the legal fight on behalf of the childs parents,accusing the government of negligence.
As many as six other children had fallen sick after being given the polio drops during that period,indicating that something was wrong with the vaccination programme.
Challenging the petition,the government had said there was neither any negligence in treating the child nor any fault with the vaccinations in view of the report submitted by a high-powered committee formed to look into the death of the child.
ADJ Lau,however,observed that the facts on record spoke volumes about the circumstances that led to the death of the infant.
Taking strong exception to the manner in which the episode was followed by the government agencies,the judge said: Was it not necessary for the government to have instituted a high-level probe rather than conducting eyewash investigations on the complaint of Rajpal? This was necessary to reinforce the faith of the public in government programmes meant for their welfare.
ADJ Lau further questioned the governments promise to provide adequate health measures to everyone and said: Why under these circumstances does the government not gear up its machinery to meet emergencies like the one in the present case?
The court further held that the programme was conducted in a casual manner as not even the vials of the polio vaccines were preserved for an in-depth inquiry at later stages.