The Rajasthan High Court has dismissed a Public Interest Litigation assailing the decision taken by the respondent Medical and Health Department to establish the District Hospital, Pipar upon the land acquired from the Krishi Upaj Mandi Samiti (KUMS).
The petitioners demanded that the District Hospital should be constructed in the premises of the existing Community Health Centre, Pipar.
The petitioners alleged that the Community Health Centre, Pipar is located at a very convenient location inside the city and is well suited to the needs of 60,000 (odd) residents of Pipar City.
The newly proposed District Hospital sanctioned to be constructed on the land acquired from KUMS, would be at a significant distance from the Pipar town and thus, the local residents would face grave inconvenience in case, the hospital is constructed at the newly identified location.
It is further submitted that as per the prescribed norms for construction of a District Hospital, 40,000 square meters land is required whereas, the land acquired from the Krishi Upaj Mandi Samiti admeasures only around 20,000 square meters i.e., 12 bighas.
It has also been submitted that the existing Community Health Centre is built on around seven and half bighas of land and Nagar Palika, Pipar has allotted another chunk of four and half bighas of land which is nearby the existing CHC and thus, the District Level Hospital can be built by demolishing the existing Community Health Centre, which would not only save valuable money spent for acquiring fresh land from the Krishi Upaj Mandi Samiti, but would also prove useful to the entire population of Pipar City.
The Division Bench of Justice Sandeep Mehta and Justice Kuldeep Mathur was of the view that the attempt made by the petitioners to question the decision of the State Government in sanctioning the construction of the District Level Hospital on the land acquired from KUMS does not seem to be bonafide.
The Court noted that the existing CHC was providing medical facilities to the residents of Pipar city having a population of 50,000, whereas the District Level Hospital would cater to the needs of a number of nearby villages having a gross estimated population of almost 6,00,000 people.
Thus, proper access to such a significant medical facility was imperative. There was no denial by the petitioners that the newly selected location is on the State Highway and thus, unquestionably, the patients requiring medical attention would be able to reach the hospital more conveniently.
It was also not disputed that the existing CHC is located deep inside the Pipar town.
“Thus, the access thereto would be hampered on account of narrow approach road and heavy traffic. Such a constructed passage to the only available medical facility may pose life threatening situations because the passage of negotiating ambulances to the hospital would be hampered by traffic on the narrow approach road.”
The power to select the location of an important public institution like a hospital is within the policy making domain of the State Government.
Unless it was demonstrated that the policy decision so taken was malafide or amounted to a colourable exercise of power. The Court would be loathe to interfere therein while exercising its extra-ordinary writ jurisdiction.
The petitioners’ counsel fervently argued that the land which acquired from KUMS for the construction of the District Level Hospital falls short of IPHS Norms, 2022 which require that for a District Level Hospital, the minimum available area should be 40,000 square meters.
This very argument of the petitioners’ counsel was counterproductive to the petitioners’ claim in the petition because the area of the existing CHC was nowhere near the area required for setting up of a District Level Hospital i.e., 40,000 square meters as per the IPHS Norms, 2002. Furthermore, as no vacant land was available nearby the CHC, there was no scope for taking additional land so as to meet the required norms.
Another important aspect which the Court cannot lose sight of is that if at all the construction of the District Level Hospital is to be made on the site of the existing CHC, then, the old building would have to be demolished which would in turn lead to a situation where the residents of Pipar city would be deprived of proper medical facility till the new hospital is constructed. The very suggestion, thus made by the petitioners is derogatory to the public interest. On the other hand, if the new District Level Hospital is constructed on the selected site, the medical facilities being provided at the CHC would continue unabatedly till the construction of the new hospital is completed , observed the Bench.
It is further observed by the High Court that a District Level Hospital would require entirely a different set up, advanced facilities and larger structures and thus, make-shift arrangements in the existing building would defeat the very purpose of establishing a new state of art facility . The existing hospital is located in a highly congested area , thus the District Level Hospital can be constructed on this land.
It is recorded by the Court that after accounting for all other allotments from the land of KUMS, about 32-35 bighas of vacant land is available and can be allotted for the upcoming District Level Hospital.
The High Court is therefore of the view that the petition filed by the petitioners is not in public interest but is rather a clear attempt to cause interference in a project of great public importance for Pipar town and nearby villages. The Court therefore is not inclined to exercise the extra-ordinary writ jurisdiction so as to accede to the prayers made in this writ petition.
Resultantly, the Court directed that the respondents shall forthwith, commence construction of the District Level Hospital on the land acquired from the Krishi Upaj Mandi Samiti, Pipar City. The construction may commence on already acquired 12.10 bighas land but simultaneously, process shall forthwith be started to acquire additional adjoining vacant land of Krishi Upaj Mandi Samiti so as to ensure that the upcoming District Level Hospital fully satisfies the IMHS Norms, 2022. Till the process of acquisition of additional land for the hospital is completed, the remaining vacant land of Krishi Upaj Mandi Samiti shall not be allotted/divested for any other purpose. Till the construction of the District Level Hospital is completed and the hospital is commissioned, the medical facilities being provided in the existing CHC shall not be disturbed/reduced.