The Dharwad bench of Karnataka high court in a recent judgement observed that the illicit relationship of a spouse cannot be proved by securing his or her private medical records.
Quashing the March 30, 2021 directive passed by a family court in Dharwad, Justice NS Sanjay Gowda said,
If this approach is to be accepted, (then) it would amount to destruction of the entire concept of doctor-patient confidentiality and drag the doctor into a marital dispute.
The order was passed on a plea by the husband seeking summoning of a doctor to produce documents relating to his wife’s alleged abortion. The wife challenged the order, contending that medical records of a person are “absolutely private” to the person and the same cannot be sought by any other individual, including the husband.
The husband argued he had made an allegation about the “adulterous life” his wife was leading.
The grounds on which divorce is sought are that the wife treated him with cruelty and that she deserted him for a continuous period of not less than two years. In addition to the divorce case, a proceeding for maintenance had been initiated by the wife.
Dharwad Bench of Karnataka High Court:
After hearing both parties, Justice Sanjay Gowda allowed the wife’s petition.
The judge noted that the power to direct a medical practitioner to act in violation of his declaration should be exercised only for strong and compelling reasons and would more or less be exercised only when an element of public interest was involved.
Pointing out that medical records of an individual are private and not for public consumption, the judge added that a direction to his medical practitioner to produce the records or divulge information he is privy to would amount to infringing upon the fundamental right of privacy guaranteed to an individual, which emanates from the ‘right to life’ granted under Article 21 of the Constitution.
Referring to the case on hand, the judge added,
If it is the case of the husband that his wife, by leading an adulterous life, had inflicted cruelty on him, then this allegation will have to be proved with cogent evidence in a manner known to law.
This allegation cannot be proved by summoning private medical records.
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