Punjab and Haryana High Court: The Division Bench of Rajan Gupta and Karamjit Singh, JJ., had addressed the issues of overcharging for CT scan, HRCT (chest), the regulatory mechanism for rates to be charged by various laboratories, spread of black fungus and the corporate response under CSR. The Bench directed that rates for RAT and RT-PCR tests in all the three States shall be uniform

Overcharging for CT Scan and HRCT

The counsel for U.T. kof Chandigarh, Mr. Chandail informed the Court that in compliance of  the last order of the Court rates for HRCT (chest) had been reduced to `1800 by the private diagnostic centers. The rates for RT-PCR test is fixed at `900/- and that for RAT at `500. While State of Haryana submitted that in all Governments hospitals, CT scan facility is being provided free of cost. However, in private centers, HRCT (chest) is being charged @ `2100/-. As regards spread of black fungus had been declared an epidemic and a State Level Committee had been constituted  to deal with the same on war footing. Counsel for Punjab, Mr. Atul Nanda had responded to the issue of preventive measures to curb spread of disease of black fungus. He highlighted before the Court that overuse of steroids particularly in diabetic patients is often leading the patients to be infected by the black fungus as well. Besides, Amphotericin B drug had been procured but State is still falling short of the requisite demand for which intervention of Union of India is required. He further submitted that the State Government had stipulated that private labs in Punjab would not charge more than `350/- (including GST) for the Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) and `450/- (including GST) for the RT-PCR test.

Arguments Advanced by the Applicant

Counsel for the applicant, Mr. Anupam Gupta had pointed out that though commendable efforts had been made by all the three States for reduction of rates of various tests, CT scan even medicines and initiate action against the hospitals who had overcharged as also the deviant sections of the Society who had not abided by the Instructions issued by the State Governments yet, certain fact finding enquiries were instituted against certain hospitals who were allegedly fleecing innocent citizens. Another significant issue before the Court was that all hospitals ought to have an ICU Control Room in order to ensure that relatives of the patients remain in regular touch with them and are aware of their medical condition. According to him, such ICU Control Room had been created in the PGIMER, Chandigarh under the instructions of the Health Ministry, Government of India. Therefore, the applicant urged the Court to issue instructions in consonance with the mandate of Article 21 of the Constitution and the observations of the Supreme Court in Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India, 2018 (10) SCC 1, wherein the Court had held that, “The jurisprudence of this Court, in recognizing the right to health and access to medical care, demonstrates the crucial distinction between negative and positive obligations. Article 21 does not impose upon the State only negative obligations not to act in such a way as to interfere with the right to health. This Court also has the power to impose positive obligations upon the State to take measures to provide adequate resources or access to treatment facilities to secure effective enjoyment of the right to health.”

Directions of the Court

In the light of the above, the Bench opined that appropriate measures were being taken by all the State Governments to deal with the pandemic. However, there were certain issues which not only need consideration but Court’s intervention. Hence, the Court issued following directions:

  1. The rates for RAT and RT-PCR tests in all the three States need to be uniform. Taking a cue from the rates prescribed by the State of Punjab, we feel that State of Haryana and U.T. Chandigarh need to reconsider the rates prescribed and act accordingly;
  2. State of Punjab and State of Haryana shall impress upon private diagnostic centres situated in their respective jurisdictions to reduce the rates for HRCT (chest) on the similar lines as that of U.T. Chandigarh.
  3. Emphasizing on the need of ICU Control Rooms as relatives of the patient cannot be left in the state of anxiety if information regarding the medical condition of their kith and kin, who are admitted in the ICU, is not available to them., the Bench directed State Government(s) need to issue necessary directions in this regard on the analogy of PGIMER, Chandigarh.
  4. As regards the fact finding enquiries in respect of overcharging by some private hospitals, same was directed to be furnished to the Nodal Committees.
  5. All three states were further directed to examine the guidelines issued by UOI for Screening, Diagnosis & Management of Mucormycosis and take necessary steps accordingly.
  6. Lastly, applauding the work done by front line workers who had rendered their services, the Bench directed that those who shirk their duties in these difficult times, their particulars shall be furnished to the Nodal Agencies formed to deal with crises created by COVID-19.

[Rishi v. State of Haryana, 2021 SCC OnLine P&H 1058, decided on 27-05-2021]

Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

Appearance before the Court by:

Amicus Curiae: Sr, Adv. Rupinder Khosla with Adv. Sarvesh Malik

For the Applicants: Adv. Karan Bhardwaj and Adv. Sardavinder Goyal

For State of Haryana: AAG Ankur Mittal

For State of Punjab: AAG Vikas Mohan Gupta

For UT of Chandigarh: SSC Pankaj Jain with Adv. Jaivir Chandail and APP J.S. Toor

Mr. Anupam Gupta, Senior Advocate with

Mr. Pradeep Sharma, Advocate for the applicant

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