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Healthcare in Consumer Protection Act 2019, VP Shantha and why you should read the source

There are good journalists and bad journalists. It is the reader's duty to discern between what is right and what is wrong. The problem in the 21st century is that that duty is completely thrown into water under the guise of "forwarded as received".

There are a lot of articles in newspapers talking about dropping the world "healthcare" from the list of services under the consumer protection act of 2019. Many of them have fancy headlines suggesting that healthcare will not be a service that falls under the ambit of the new consumer protection act. At least some of them have written objectively stating where the word is dropped from without going into judgement on what this means.

But many doctors are reading headlines and thinking that the consumer protection act will not apply to healthcare henceforth. What they need to read to know they are wrong is just one judgement by the Supreme Court in the "Indian Medical Association vs VP Shantha, 1995" case.

That judgement was specifically about settling the question of whether healthcare is a service that falls under the definition of service as defined in the consumer protection act (the act of 1986). For ease of reference I will quote the definition from the old act:

" "service" means service of any description which is made avail­able to potential users and includes, but not limited to, the provision of  facilities in connection with banking, financing insurance, transport, processing, supply of electrical or other energy, board or lodging or both, housing construction, entertainment, amusement or the purveying of news or other information, but does not include the rendering of any service free of charge or under a contract of personal service;"

Notice that healthcare is not specifically mentioned. Supreme Court read this definition and confirmed that healthcare is included in the broad definition of "service of any description" and spelled out conditions where it would be excluded.

Now, here is the definition from the new act:

""service" means service of any description which is made available to potential users and includes, but not limited to, the provision of facilities in connection with banking, financing, insurance, transport, processing, supply of electrical or other energy, telecom, boarding or lodging or both, housing construction, entertainment,amusement or the purveying of news or other information, but does not include the rendering of any service free of charge or under a contract of personal service;" (emphasis for words that have been added)

Where is the "healthcare" word dropped from then? Well, it is from the draft bill that was introduced.

Now you can read the full judgement on how the new definition also includes healthcare in it.


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