Preparing to appear before the court: Important tips for doctors [Medico-Legal]

M3 India Newsdesk Sep 09, 2018

Once in a while, a doctor might be summoned by the court to appear as a witness as the treating doctor; awareness of protocols and knowing what to expect can be helpful in such situations.









Whenever presence of any medical officer is required in the court, a summons is issued meaning an official order to appear in a court of law or authority, wherein the time and date are specified to remain present in the court.Summons is issued depending on the need decided by the court for the purpose of either submitting the evidence and/or for disability assessment and for cross-examination.In such a situation, it is critical that you must comply with the summons, otherwise you risk being found in contempt of court – this is a criminal offence. We have already written more on this, you may refer to the 3 common mistakes one should avoid if faced by a legal notice. If in case you have a legitimate reason for being unable to attend, you should seek advice from a professional.

The prospect of appearing in court as a witness could be daunting.The unfamiliarity of the situation can cause stress and anxiety. By gaining an understanding of the process, you can help minimise stress and ensure that all goes smoothly.This write-up will help you understand what to expect and how to prepare yourself for such a situation.

If a person to whom the summons is issued fails to appear and the summons is proved to have been duly served and no reasonable excuse is offered for any failure to attend, a warrant can be issued.

A Warrant is a legal or govt. official authorizing the police or another body to arrest, search premises or carry out some other action relating to the administration of justice.

While attending the court, documents to be submitted to the Court by the Medical Practitioner includes Original Case papers with page numbers, photographs at the time of admission, radiograph at the time of admission, if any. It is always advised to keep a copy of the documents submitted in the Court for future reference.If the vital document which is called upon to be produced is intentionally omitted or lost and if false information is furnished, the legally bound person or the institution shall be punished.

When summoned, Doctors may be questioned by the lawyers of the prosecution, defense or the insurance company as the case may be.

  • They may ask about the details of the injury and the quantum of disability. In case of evidence in relation to any offense punishable under the Indian Penal Code, the Doctor will be asked about the depth of the injury, cause of injury, weapon which may cause such an injury, time of injury i.e.old or recent, effects of the injury.
  • Most of the questions framed by the advocate are to be answered in yes or no format for eg. do you have case papers, do you maintain a record at your dispensary or hospital? Did you inform the police on patient’s admission? 
  • The Doctor is required to be specific in answering questions related to his qualifications.

Detailed answers  are required about admission of the patient;

who admitted the patient,

who was the admitting doctor,

date and time of reporting to the police,

whether the patient was conscious at the time of admission,

what was the complaint on admission,

what were the observations,

what was the nature of injury,

what surgery or procedure required for such an injury?, when was it done?, who did it?,

was the patient referred to any expert and was it necessary?

If any other treatment or procedure is available for such an injury?

The doctor has to be truthful and needs to only mention the facts that are already reported in the case papers, certificates, discharge summary and disability assessment certificate. There could be pauses between questions and answers. A doctor need not feel pressured to fill in those pauses.

Doctors should remain non-committal about the subjects that, he or she is not sure about.

It is important to collect the acknowledgment for the original documents submitted and Court Attendance Certificate.

Appearing well prepared before the court simply means looking over your notes or reports and being prepared to explain your actions and professional opinion.

The writer is a practicing High Court Advocate.The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the writers and forum participants on this website do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the editors or publisher of the website. Readers are advised to exercise their own judgment while using the content. 

This article was originally published on 10th October 2017.

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