Kalyani Rajan vs. Indraprastha Apollo Hospital: A Landmark Ruling in Res Ipsa Loquitur and Medical Negligence

Kalyani Rajan vs. Indraprastha Apollo Hospital: A Landmark Ruling in Res Ipsa Loquitur and Medical Negligence

Kalyani Rajan vs. Indraprastha Apollo Hospital: A Landmark Ruling in Res Ipsa Loquitur and Medical Negligence


With the Supreme Court’s historic ruling in a two-judge Bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justice A.S Bopanna and Justice Prashant Kumar Mishra passed an Order dated 17.10.2023 in Civil Appeal No. 10347 Of 2010 in Kalyani Rajan v. Indraprastha Apollo Hospital in 2023, the legal landscape of medical malpractice in India underwent a seismic shift. The complex ramifications of the ruling for patients, healthcare professionals, and the larger legal system are examined in this case study.

At Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, Kalyani Rajan underwent a minimally invasive procedure for a slipped disc. The procedure was met with serious complications, including paralysis. Her legal team made several claims of negligence, including that the surgery was not necessary, that the patient did not give informed consent, and that there were technical difficulties that occurred during the operation. In response, the hospital said that the operation was standard and that the problems were unexpected.

The application of the Res Ipsa Loquitur legal principle was a crucial element in this case. The Supreme Court acknowledged its importance and stated that the hospital now had more proof because of the unusually high degree of problems. Citing Indraprastha Apollo Hospital’s inability to provide a sufficient explanation for the reason for paralysis, the judgment found the hospital negligent in medicine.

This decision sets a precedent that has broad ramifications. Highlighting the significance of informed consent and due diligence in medical operations enhances patient rights. Higher accountability for healthcare providers highlights the need for openness and high standards of service. The employment of Res Ipsa Loquitur streamlines the process of filing a claim for damages resulting from negligence, giving patients easier access to justice.

But problems still exist. It is imperative that the ruling be implemented successfully in a variety of medical settings. For effective adjudication, bridging the knowledge gap between medical and legal professionals remains a difficulty. Maintaining a favorable atmosphere for medical practice and avoiding pointless lawsuits require finding a compromise between the rights of patients and the autonomy of medical professionals.

In conclusion, the Kalyani Rajan case constitutes a watershed event in India’s legal approach to medical malpractice. It creates the foundation for a safer and more open healthcare system by reaffirming the applicability of Res Ipsa Loquitur and placing a higher priority on patient rights and accountability. Effective implementation in conjunction with ongoing communication between legal and medical experts will be critical to guaranteeing the long-term effects of this ruling.


Despite its size and complexity, the Indian healthcare system faces challenges with accountability, quality, and accessibility. Unfortunately, medical carelessness continues to be a problem and frequently leads to severe consequences for patients and their families. In Kalyani Rajan v. Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, the Supreme Court of India rendered a historic decision in 2023 that not only addressed a particular case of claimed malpractice but also had a substantial impact on the legal framework governing claims of medical negligence. This case study explores the intricacies of the ruling, evaluating its consequences for patients, medical professionals, and the judicial system.

Facts of the Case:

Kalyani Rajan, the plaintiff, went to Indraprastha Apollo Hospital to receive treatment for a slipped disc. After undergoing a minimally invasive treatment called Lumbar Intervertebral Disc Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) to treat the problem, Kalyani developed serious problems following the surgery, including lower limb paralysis. She and her legal team argued that the hospital and its physicians were irresponsible in several ways, alleging medical negligence. They argued for less intrusive alternatives and questioned if RFA was appropriate for her circumstances. Furthermore, Kalyani’s counsel argued that there was a lack of informed consent, claiming that the hospital had not sufficiently disclosed the possible dangers and difficulties connected to RFA. They also claimed that there were technical mistakes made during the procedure, specifically nerve injury from incorrect needle placement. 

Responding that RFA was a common practice for treating slipped discs and that the problems were unanticipated and outside of their control, the hospital rejected any fault. They maintained that Kalyani gave informed permission after being fully aware of the hazards. The arguments on the suitability of the medical procedure, the sufficiency of informed consent, and the purported technical errors during the surgery were central to the case and significantly influenced the development of the legal discourse on medical negligence.

The Contention and Legal Argument:

The hospital and the physicians, according to Kalyani Rajan’s counsel, were careless in multiple ways:

  • Inaccurate diagnosis and procedure selection: They questioned whether RFA was the best course of action for her situation and suggested looking into less invasive alternatives.
  • Informed consent: Prior consent was lacking, according to their allegations that the hospital did not sufficiently advise her of the possible dangers and problems of reversing her food allergies.
  • Poor execution of the procedure: They claimed that there were technical blunders made during the surgery, such as nerve injury from incorrect needle placement.

The hospital, on the other hand, denied any negligence. They contended that RFA was a standard procedure for treating slipped discs and that the complications were unforeseen and beyond their control. They also argued that Kalyani Rajan had been informed of the risks and had provided informed consent.

The Principle of Res Ipsa Loquitur:

The legal doctrine known as “Res Ipsa Loquitur,” which translates to “the thing speaks for itself,” transfers the burden of proof in some circumstances of carelessness. This theory is usually used in cases where the accident or harm would not have happened in the absence of negligence and the defendant has control over the evidence supporting their liability. Essentially, it gives the plaintiff the ability to prove carelessness prima facie without needing proof of the defendant’s conduct.

For “Res Ipsa Loquitur” to be used, three things are usually necessary:

  • The incident has to be the kind of thing that, in the absence of negligence, would not often happen. To put it another way, the incident’s nature suggests that someone was careless.
  • An instrumentality or circumstance that falls under the defendant’s sole control must be the cause of the incident. This requirement guarantees that the defendant was directly aware of or in charge of the circumstances that resulted in the injury.
  • The plaintiff cannot have caused harm by their conduct or carelessness. The incident should not have been caused in part by the plaintiff’s actions.

When unanticipated and serious harm happens during a medical procedure and it can be fairly assumed that such an accident would not have occurred in the absence of carelessness, “Res Ipsa Loquitur” may be utilized in cases involving medical negligence. The defendant, who is typically a healthcare practitioner, is then required by the doctrine to demonstrate that they were not negligent.

The principle of “Res Ipsa Loquitur” was applied by the court in the Kalyani Rajan v. Indraprastha Apollo Hospital case. The court recognized that the severe complications, including paralysis, were not a typical outcome of the medical procedure, and thus shifted the burden of proof to the hospital to demonstrate that negligence did not occur. This emphasizes the relevance of the principle in enabling the just resolution of cases in which the defendant controls the relevant evidence and the circumstances suggest negligence.

The Judgment and its Implications:

The ruling in Kalyani Rajan v. Indraprastha Apollo Hospital (2023) has profound ramifications for patients, healthcare providers, and the Indian healthcare system as a whole. It represents a major shift in the legal landscape of medical negligence in India. The Supreme Court’s ruling has influenced important ideas and set a precedent that affects how medical malpractice cases are handled. The effects of the ruling are as follows:

  • Enhanced Rights for Patients: The ruling upholds the significance of patient rights, especially about informed consent. It confirms that patients have the right to sufficient information regarding the dangers and possible side effects of medical procedures.
  • Increased Liability for Medical Professionals: Healthcare professionals are subject to stricter responsibility requirements. In particular, when it comes to choosing and carrying out medical procedures, the ruling highlights the necessity for medical experts and institutions to undertake due diligence and preserve transparency in their processes.
  • The use of Res Ipsa Loquitur: The ruling determines whether medical negligence charges fall under the legal doctrine of Res Ipsa Loquitur. This concept, which holds that an event’s very nature implies carelessness, gives plaintiffs a strong weapon for establishing their case and puts the onus on healthcare practitioners to explain any unanticipated results.
  • Patients’ Easy Access to Justice: In instances of medical malpractice, the judgment expedites the procedure for patients to seek justice by acknowledging and implementing res ipsa loquitur. By placing the burden of proof on the healthcare practitioner to show they were not at fault, it lessens the burden of proof on the plaintiff to establish negligence.2
  • Creating Guidelines for Medical Practices: The ruling creates a standard for determining whether medical operations are appropriate. The statement implies that following standard procedures might not be enough to prevent unforeseen and serious problems, highlighting the importance of healthcare personnel giving each situation considerable consideration.
  • Possible Effect on Liability and Medical Insurance: Medical insurance and liability policies may alter for healthcare providers and facilities. To reduce potential legal concerns, the ruling may have an impact on insurance rates and motivate healthcare providers to implement stricter risk management practices.
  • Public Confidence in Medical Care: The public’s confidence in the healthcare system may be affected by the case. Establishing trust between patients and healthcare providers is facilitated by bolstering accountability and prioritizing patient rights.

Obstacles and Prospective Considerations: 

Although the Kalyani Rajan case represents a noteworthy advancement in enhancing patient safety and responsibility within the Indian healthcare system, many obstacles still need to be addressed:

  • Sophisticated execution: It is imperative to guarantee that the ruling is appropriately applied in all hospitals and healthcare facilities.
  • Medical expertise in court proceedings: For medical negligence cases to be decided fairly and accurately, it is crucial to close the knowledge gap between the fields of medicine and law.2
  • Balancing professional autonomy with patient rights: To keep the atmosphere favorable for medical practice, it’s critical to strike a balance between safeguarding medical personnel from pointless litigation and preserving patient rights.


Indraprastha Apollo Hospital v. Kalyani Rajan is a seminal case in the legal context of medical malpractice in India. A safer and more open healthcare system has been made possible by reaffirming the applicability of Res Ipsa Loquitur and placing an emphasis on patient rights and accountability. To guarantee the judgment’s genuine effect in safeguarding patients and maintaining the moral practice of medicine, however, efficient execution and ongoing communication between legal and medical experts are essential.

AUTHOR: Dhriti Kathuria, a Student at Maharshi Dayanand University.

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