A district consumer court in New Delhi has fined a herbal clinic and a Mumbai-based lab Rs 25,000 each for misleading a Haryana-based couple by falsely declaring them HIV positive and then going on to “cure” them of their ailment.
According to the couple, Dharampal Singh and his wife Chandro Devi, they were falsely declared as being HIV positive at the Ayuna Herbal Healthcare in Delhi’s New Friends Colony on the basis of test results produced by Hootone Remedies, a Mumbai-based lab.
The doctor at the clinic, Dr Asiam Javed, then allegedly proceeded to “treat” the couple by administering medication that, he claimed, would cure them of the virus. The deception came to light when the couple tested negative for HIV at a government-run hospital in the national capital.
The consumer court pulled up the clinic and the lab, pointing out that there is no cure for HIV. The antibodies of the virus remain in the body forever, the court noted. It also held that the clinic and the lab had deliberately misled the couple and indulged in unfair trade practices.
“It is established that the complainants’ test results in a government laboratory were negative. The complainants have never suffered or were infected with HIV,” the court ruled.
“The opposite parties have misled them by promising a cure that has not been tested and endorsed by the scientific community. The opposite parties have further indulged in deliberated deception by first showing the results as positive and after prescribing medicines, showing results as negative,” it added.
Furthermore, the court ruled that the fine should be paid to the couple at an interest of 9 per cent from the date of the complaint nine years ago.
According to complainant Dharampal Singh, he was taken to the herbal clinic in November 2007, after complaining of a stomach ache. He says that Dr Javed allegedly told him to undergo an HIV test at the Ranbaxy Pathology Laboratory in Gurgaon.
A week later, however, reports with the letterhead of ‘Hootone Remedies’, a unit of Hakh Medical Foundation, was produced declaring Singh as being HIV positive.
Singh said that as he was scared and ashamed about his “disease”, he chose not to tell anyone about it and then compelled his wife to get tested as well. To their shock, Chandro Devi tested positive too.
Dr Javed, Singh says, then assured him that it was curable, and prescribed drugs to the tune of Rs 1,000 per box.
Months later, after “completing the treatment”, the doctor allegedly told the couple to get re-tested under the pretext of determining if the medicines had worked. The complainants were allegedly asked to pay an additional Rs 10,000 just to obtain the tests results. To their relief, they were told that the results had come back negative.
The couple then got themselves tested several times more at government hospitals, just to be sure they had “been treated”. It was then, Singh says, that they discovered there was no cure for HIV, let alone it being medically treated within months.
According to the couple, the clinic refused to supply bills for the cost of the treatment that, they claim, amounted to Rs 60,000. Singh approached advocate Kabir Chaudhary from the Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) and took the clinic and the doctor to the consumer court.
Now, almost nine years on, Singh is happy he got justice. But his lawyer believes that the compensation amount is far less than what they had appealed for.
“We had sought compensation of Rs 5 lakh. What we got is far less,” Chaudhary said. “We will appeal for a higher amount.”
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