Bom HC | COVID-19 | Preposterous to urge the Bench to direct the State to provide free treatment: Rs 5 L costs imposed on petitioner

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench of Dipankar Datta, CJ and K.K. Tated, J., held that,

“price fixation is necessarily to be left to the judgment of the executive and unless it is patent that there is hostile discrimination against a class of persons, the processual basis of price fixation is to be accepted in the generality of cases to be valid.”

Petitioner challenged the notification issued by Principal Secretary to the Government of Maharashtra, Department of Public Health.

Petitioner stated that directions be issued to State of Maharashtra to provide

  • COVID treatment to all citizens of Maharashtra, totally free of cost in all hospitals including private hospitals
  • to notify uniform rates or charges for the treatment of patients of COVID in all the hospitals in Maharashtra
  • to provide 100% free treatment to COVID patients
  • to charge all the patients other than those suffering from COVID according to the Mahatma Jyotibha Phule Health Insurance Scheme, etc.

Petitioner adds to his submissions that it is the State’s duty and obligation to provide health and medicare services for all the citizens free of cost and that the State of Maharashtra has utterly failed to live up to the expectations of the people.

The above-mentioned notification does not tale into consideration the plight of a vast cross-section of people who are not in a position to afford private hospital treatment, for which State should take a step ahead and make arrangements of free treatment.

Persons not covered under any health insurance product were being charged exorbitantly causing hardship to the public in general.

80% of isolation beds available with any healthcare provider under the above-mentioned notification should be regulated by State Government/District Collectors/Municipal Commissioners and so also the 80% of non isolation beds. Healthcare providers, however, have been allowed to charge their rack rates to the remaining 20% beds.

Several measures, have been directed by the State to be adopted by private hospitals while treating patients infected by COVID as well as ailing from other diseases. Price caps have also been introduced.

In view of the above-stated, Bench stated that there is no compulsion on any citizen to take treatment from private facilities.

Adding to its conclusion, Court also stated that, it is entirely left to the option of the patient as to which of the facilities he would prefer, i.e., facilities in private or public hospitals.

There is also no discrimination between the rich and the poor. Even a rich and a poor person alike can take admission in the 80% reserved category of beds, and pay at the rate prescribed.

Bench also added that the price fixation brought about by the impugned is neither arbitrary or unreasonable.

To urge the Bench to direct the State to provide for treatment of a patient free of cost, in these circumstances, appears to be preposterous.

Petitioner has utterly failed to demonstrate any infringement of any fundamental right or abrogation of any statutory provision by the State so as to adversely affect any class of people, thereby warranting judicial intervention.

Court thus dismissed the PIL stating the same to be frivolous. Cost of Rs 5 lakhs imposed. [Sagar Shivajirao Jondhale v. State of Maharashtra, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 717 , decided on 16-06-2020]

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