State of Haryana and Others v. Smt. Santra (2000)

Smt. Santra, poor laborer woman with 7 children, underwent sterilization through a state-run program in order to avoid a future pregnancy. After the sterilization was performed, Smt. Santra was provided with a certificate signed by authorized government medical officers and was assured that the procedure had been successful and she therefore would not become pregnant again. She subsequently became pregnant and ultimately gave birth to a girl. When she initially contacted doctors at the hospital, she was told she was not pregnant. However, when the pregnancy became apparent, she was told the sterilization procedure had not been successful. The procedure had only been done on one fallopian tube, with the other remaining untouched. Smt. Santra requested an abortion but was told that this would be dangerous to her life. Smt. Santra filed a civil claim for damages of rupees two lakhs (about $3,000 USD), citing medical negligence. The district court and the lower appellate court both found that the procedure performed was not complete, demonstrating negligence on the part of the doctor and ordered payment of compensation of 54,000 rupees, with 12% interest rate from the date of the institution of the civil suit until the payment of the compensation.

The State of Haryana then filed an appeal before the Supreme Court contending that the negligence of the medical officer would not bind the state government and that it would not be vicariously liable. It further contended that the expenses awarded for bringing up the child could not have been legally decreed as there was no element of “tort” involved and the respondent had not suffered a loss which could be compensated with money.