21 February 2011
By Bhartesh Singh Thakur
IN THE first decision of its kind, Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) has awarded Rs 10 lakh compensation to the Ludhiana–based family of a soldier , who died because of HIV–positive blood transfusion at a military hospital.
Gita Devi (42), her three children and her father–in–law approached the AFT last year for compensation for the medical negligence committed at Military Hospital, Beenagudi (West Bengal) on the ground that the death of a soldier should be treated at par with battle casualty.
The bench comprising Justice Ghanshyam Prasad and Lt Gen AS Bahia (retd) ordered Rs 3 lakh for the widow, Rs 2 lakh each for the three children and Rs 1 lakh for the father of the soldier.
Gunner Suresh Kumar, while on active duty, was going on a military truck along with fellow armymen in 1995, when it overturned. Due to injuries suffered, he was transferred to Military Hospital, Beenagudi. During treatment, he was transfused blood from four armymen, one of whom was HIV–positive.
After transfusion, he was found to be HIV–positive, as submitted in the petition.
A court of inquiry found that standard operating pro
cedure was not obeyed in the case and the blood was not screened before transfusion.
Kumar was discharged on January 31, 1997 after 15 years and 287 days of service. He was part of Op Rakshak, participated in operations in Bhutan and served in Somalia for two years with the United Nations under the UNISONII operation.
After discharge, his pension was fixed at Rs 399 per month, "which was not even sufficient to survive, leave aside treatment", as per the petition. His last drawn pay was Rs 1,120 per month. After pursuing his case for months, he was given disability pension of Rs 90 per month but for injury caused in the accident and not for negligence of the medical staff which left him with an incurable disease.
Kumar died on March 31, 2000 aged 33. After his death, Geeta Devi was granted Ordinary Family Pension at Rs 1,275 per month, which was later enhanced to Special Family Pension. In 2010, the family approached AFT for Rs 1 crore compensation.
During the arguments the Central government agreed that the disease was attributable to military service but contested the compensation.
After the order, counsel for the family, RS Ghuman, said they would approach a higher court for more compensation.
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