SC junks review plea, directs Army, Air Force to pay Rs 1.5 crore to ex-officer who got HIV during blood transfusion

The blood transfusion took place in July 2002 during Operation Parakram, when India deployed additional troops to the border with Pakistan.
Supreme Court of India
Supreme Court of India Photo | PTI

The Supreme Court has rejected the review petition filed by the Indian Army against its verdict directing the Indian Army and Air Force to jointly pay around Rs 1.5 crore compensation to a former air force officer who contracted HIV/AIDS after a blood transfusion at a military hospital during Operation Parakram in 2002.

The officer (now retired) corporal Ashish Kumar Chauhan had joined the air force in 1996. The blood transfusion took place in July 2002 during Operation Parakram, when India deployed additional troops to the border with Pakistan. As Chauhan fell ill, he was hospitalised at a military hospital in Jammu. One unit of blood was administered to him without his consent.

Subsequently, when tests were conducted, it was found by the Indian Naval Hospital in Mumbai in May 2014 that he was HIV positive. The medical board found that he had contracted this during the blood transfusion.

He subsequently moved the Supreme Court for justice. The apex court, in its judgment on September 26, 2023, held both the Air Force and the Army liable to pay a compensation of Rs 1.5 crore to Chauhan. The SC arrived at the amount after calculating Chauhan's loss of earnings, mental agony, future care expenses and litigation expenses.

A two-judge bench of the top court, headed by Justice Dipankar Datta and also comprising Justice PB Varale, while recently dismissing the review plea of the Army, noted that its earlier judgment did not suffer from any error, warranting its reconsideration.

"No other ground has been made out for granting the relief claimed in the Review Petition (filed by the army)," the bench in its order said.

In September 2023, the top court awarded Chauhan approximately Rs 1.5 crores in compensation (Rs 86.73 lakh for loss of earnings, Rs 50 lakh for mental agony, Rs 18 lakh towards future care expenses and Rs 5 lakh for litigation expenses), holding the Army and Air Force vicariously liable, both jointly and severally.

"The appellant (Chauhan) is entitled to compensation of 1,54,73,000 rupees on account of medical negligence of the respondents (Army and Air force) who are held liable for injuries suffered by him. Since individual liability cannot be assigned, the respondent organizations IAF, and the Indian Army are held vicariously liable jointly and severally. The amount shall be paid by the IAF (his employer) within 6 weeks," the top court said in its order.

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