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Supreme Court issued notice on PIL seeking free of cost testing of COVID-19

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Supreme Court Issued Notice to Centre on plea challenging the Government advisory of fixing INR 4500 for COVID-19 test in Private labs and Hospitals.

A Division Bench of Supreme Court comprising of Justice Nageswara Rao and Justice Deepak Gupta, sought Centre’s response regarding free of cost testing facility for Covid-19 to all citizens in the country. The Bench has also directed the petitioner to mail a copy of the petition to Solicitor General, so as to file a response.

The present petition was filed by Shashank Deo Sudhi in public interest and on grounds of urgency.

According to the petitioner, the testing facility for COVID-19 in private hospital and labs has been capped by the Government at rate of Rs 4500/-, and considering the entire country is under locked down and the government hospitals are overwhelmingly packed to its capacity, this decision is unfortunate. It is extremely difficult for the common citizens to get themselves tested in the government hospital or labs, and in absence of any alternative, the common and poor people are forced to pay the said capped amount to the private hospital.

The Government Advisory, by the Indian Council of Medical Research that has issued this pricing is therefore arbitrary, discriminatory and unreasonable, which is causing financial suffering, and depriving the accessibility of medical facilities to the common citizen violating the Right to Life guaranteed Under Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India.

The decision, according to the petitioner, is not only violative of the ideals and values of the Constitution of India which promises the protection of the state to the common people in the time of emergency and calamities, but also against the principles of right to equality and equal protection of law under Article of the Indian Constitution. The Advisory should therefore be struck down as being ultra-vires of the provision of the Constitution of India.

The petition, regarding the healthcare facilities available, also states that during this pandemic, the health infrastructure is dangerously outstretched, understaffed and under resourced. There are only 114 identified testing centres for testing the COVID-19 in the entire country of 130 million citizen. The Government must therefore ensure that adequate numbers of testing kits are provided along with testing centres  to test COVID-19 across the country. Adequate numbers of ventilators including other medical devices be provided, and it must be ensured that every district hospital has adequate numbers of ventilator to meet the needs of this medical emergency

The petitioner has also contended that the Government is not only discriminating in the accessibility and availability of testing facility but also discriminating in providing a guarantee of legitimacy of the fully accredited pathological labs or testing centres. Majority of the testing centres are not accredited with NABL or any other accretion board or agency, and are providing false and fake clinical reports.

The petitioner also points out the importance of dissemination of critical information to the citizens of the country is extremely important as it also forms the bedrock of the idea of the Constitution of India.

The petitioner prayed for issuance of directions to the Respondent Government for the following:

  • Ensuring provision of free of cost testing facility of COVID-19 to all citizens of the country, in both government and private labs, and declaring the Government Advisory capping price for testing as arbitrary and unconstitutional.
  • Ensuring that all COVID-19 tests are conducted under NABL accredited pathological laboratories, conforming to the standards as per global best practices being prescribed by international laboratory accreditation co-operation (ILAC) and Asia pacific accreditation co-operation (APAC)
  • Hold regular news briefings through the National Television channel about the current situation on COVID-19 and precaution to be taken by the common people

-India Legal Bureau

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