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Supreme Court refuses PIL for better health services across India, asks petitioner to stick to Ayushman Bharat

The bench observed that the court can’t exercise its jurisdiction pertaining to directions for doctors to use English and one other language on prescription.

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The Supreme Court has refused to hear a public interest litigation seeking directions to the Union of India for providing better health services across the country.

The bench of Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice B.V. Nagarathna observed on Friday that the petition raised some valid points regarding the provisions for health services but it also seeks some unreasonable prayers. Dismissing the petition, the bench suggested to the petitioner advocates to recast the petition and come back by deleting other prayers and keeping it strictly on Ayushman Bharat i.e. to issue immediate directions to private hospitals to admit all the needy Ayushman Bharat Health Card holders in for Covid-19 treatment so that the bench can exercise its jurisdiction.   

Advocate Bharat Swaroop Sharma submitted that the prayers in petition were made during the time of second wave of pandemic and at that time it was relevant since family members were not allowed inside the ward. AOR P. Sureshan further submitted that they could delete the irrelevant prayers if the bench considers so. 

The bench observed that the court can’t exercise its jurisdiction pertaining to directions for doctors to use English and one other language on prescription. 

In reply to the aforesaid prayer, Justice Chandrachud commented that, “We can’t do that, there are other places like rural areas.” He further observed that the prayer regarding installing CCTV cameras at hospital is certainly a breach of privacy which can’t be allowed.

Apart from the above, the PIL sought directions to the Central government to frame guidelines for installing CCTV cameras across all hospitals in the country, guidelines for doctors to type all prescriptions in English or local languages and also mention the alternative brands of medicine available in the market, guidelines for reserving 50% beds in all private hospitals for economically-weaker sections of society; guidelines to have control room across the country to redress the grievances of the public with respect to the day-to-day problems faced by them pertaining to health service, rules stipulating private hospitals across the country to display charges levied for each health services and proper punitive actions for noncompliance of such requirements and to frame rules and guidelines for the purpose of controlling and checking of black-marketing of essential medicines and oxygen etc.

The petition was filed by the All India Consumer Protection and Action Committee to advance transparency in the system where there are gaping holes.

It stated that Ayushman Bharat, a flagship scheme of Government of India, was launched as recommended by the National Health Policy 2017, to achieve the vision of Universal Health Coverage. This initiative has been designed to meet Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and its underlying commitment, which is to “leave no one behind.” Accordingly, the government has been issuing Ayushman Bharat Golden Card to ensure cashless, paperless and portable transactions through the PMJAY scheme, the Ayushman Bharat Yojana Golden Card will be issued to beneficiaries. The PMJAY e-card contains all required information of the patient. It is mandatory to present this card at the time of availing treatment at the empanelled hospital. However, the number of hospitals empanelled for treating card holders is very low, thus, all private hospitals should be directed to treat patients with Ayushman Bharat Card.

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