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Delhi High Court defers hearing on plea challenging ICMR advisory against repetition of RT-PCR tests on Covid-positive

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The Delhi High Court on Monday deferred its hearing on a petition challenging an advisory issued by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), barring repetition of RT-PCR tests on individuals who tested positive for Covid-19.

Anurag Ahluwalia, appearing on behalf of ICMR, sought time from the Division Bench comprising Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh to file its response. The Bench then posted the matter for hearing on September 20.

The plea has been filed by practising Advocate Karan Ahuja, through Advocates Kuldeep Jauhari, Anubhav Tyagi and Rajat Bhatia. The petitioner and his parents tested positive for Covid-19 on April 28, 2021; and remained under home isolation for a period of 17 days, as per the guidelines issued by the Delhi Government.

On May 1, 2021, Civil Defence Volunteers were deployed outside his house for ensuring that isolation protocols are followed properly. Even after completing the mandatory isolation period, the Civil Defence Guards insisted on a negative Covid-19 report to allow the petitioner and his family to step out of the house, even to get essential items. 

Subsequently, on May 18, 2021, the petitioner and his parents went to the nearest dispensary to get tested, but the medical staff refused to conduct the test, citing that they have orders not to test people who have tested positive.

The plea alleged that the May 4 advisory issued by the ICMR is “arbitrary, discriminatory and creates a paradoxical situation, since a negative RT-PCR report is compulsorily required by several other notifications issued by the respondents (Centre, ICMR and Delhi government).”

The plea further alleged that the denial of testing at a public facility is violative of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution, as it discriminates against individuals, who have tested positive and leaves no room for them to confirm if they have turned negative and fully recovered.

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In the light of the foregoing, the plea sought striking down of the clause in the advisory, which bars repeating of an RT-PCR test on someone who has already tested positive by way of Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) or RT-PCR; and a direction to not put any direct or indirect prohibition on the right of a citizen to get oneself tested for any infection, including Covid-19.

The Bench, on previous occasion, sought response from the Centre, the Delhi Government and the ICMR on the issue.

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