Case BriefsCOVID 19Supreme Court

Supreme Court: Refusing to interfere with the Delhi High Courts order staying Delhi Government’s decision to reserve 80% of ICU beds in private hospitals for COVID-19 patients, a vacation bench of Ashok Bhushan and B.R. Gavai, JJ has asked the Delhi High Court to hear the matter on 12.11.2020.

The order came after Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain submitted before the Court that there was an urgent requirement of hearing the matter since situation in Delhi regarding necessity of providing ICU beds to Covid-19 patients is increasing day by day.

Senior Advocate Maninder Singh, appearing for the Association of Healthcare Providers submitted that the matter was already listed before the Single Bench on 18.11.2020 and that he had no objection if the matter is taken up on any early date by the Division Bench. The LPA before the division bench was earlier listed on 27.11.2020.

The Court directed that it will be open for the parties to submit such pleadings and submissions before the Division Bench as may be advised.

[Government of NCT of Delhi v. Association of Healthcare Providers, Special Leave to Appeal (C) Nos. 13530-13531/2020, order dated 10.11.2020]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The bench of Ashok Bhushan and R. Subhash Reddy, JJ has directed that all old age people who are eligible for pension should be regularly paid pension and those identified older people should be provided necessary medicines, masks, sanitizers and other essential goods by respective States.

The Court further directed that as and when any individual request is made, the same shall be attended to by the Administration with all promptness. The care givers of those old age homes should be provided personal protection and appropriate sanitization should also be undertaken in the old age homes.

The direction was passed after it was told that the older people, who are living alone, are worst sufferers and they are not able to get medicines, masks, sanitizers and other essential goods. The care givers of these people are also not equipped with personal protection equipment and are also untrained. The petitioner submitted that the older people have already been identified since most of them are getting pension from the States under the different schemes and that appropriate direction be issued for timely payment of old age pension to all elder persons who are in receipt of the pension.

On the submission that the elderly people are not getting priority in the Government hospital irrespective of their capacity to pay, the Court observed that the elderly people should be given priority in the admission in the Government hospital looking to their vulnerability for COVID 19. In event of any complaint made by the elderly people, the hospital administration concerned shall take immediate steps to remedy their grievances.

The States have to file their reply affidavit within four weeks.

[Dr. Ashwani Kumar v. Union of India, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 620 , order dated 04.08.2020]


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Case BriefsCOVID 19Supreme Court

Supreme Court: The bench of Ashok Bhushan and S. Ravindra Bhat, JJ has modified it’s April 8, 2020 order in Shashank Deo Sudhi v. Union of India, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 358, wherein it had asked the Centre to create a mechanism wherein private laboratories conducting COVID-19 tests do not charge exorbitant fees from public and government should reimburse the fees charged by labs.

The Court clarified that the said order intended to make testing in private Labs of COVID-19 free for economically weaker sections of the society who were unable to afford the payment of testing fee as fixed by ICMR for COVID-19.

“the order never intended to make testing free for those who can afford the payment of testing fee fixed by the ICMR for COVID-19.”

The said modification came after Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi submitted before the Court that if the Labs are not to charge any fee for the tests, it will be impossible for them to carry on the test in due to financial constraint and other relevant factors as the kits which are utilized in the test are imported kits involving substantial expenses. He told the Court that insofar as the persons covered under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Aarogya Yojana, popularly called as Ayushman Bharat Yojana, the Labs are conducting free of cost COVID-19 test.

Clarifying it’s earlier order, the Court said that the benefit of free testing by a person can be availed only when he or she is covered under any scheme like Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Aarogya Yojana. It, further, said,

“looking to the plight of persons belonging to economically weaker sections of the society, the Government may consider as to whether any other categories of persons belonging to economically weaker sections of the society can be extended benefit of free testing of COVID-19.”

Earlier Order

  • The tests relating to COVID-19 whether in approved Government Laboratories or approved private Laboratories shall be free of cost. Centre shall issue necessary direction in this regard immediately.
  • Tests relating to COVID-19 must be carried out in NABL accredited Labs or any agencies approved by WHO or ICMR.

Modified Order

  • Free testing for COVID-19 shall be available to persons eligible under Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Aarogya Yojana as already implemented by the Government of India, and 6 any other category of economically weaker sections of the society as notified by the Government for free testing for COVID-19, hereinafter.
  • The Government of India, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare may consider as to whether any other categories of the weaker sections of the society e.g. workers belonging to low income groups in the informal sectors, beneficiaries of Direct Benefit Transfer, etc. apart from those covered under Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Aarogya Yojana are also eligible for the benefit of free testing and issue appropriate guidelines in the above regard also within a period of one week.
  • The private Labs can continue to charge the payment for testing of COVID-19 from persons who are able to make payment of testing fee as fixed by ICMR.
  • The Government of India, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare may issue necessary guidelines for reimbursement of cost of free testing of COVID-19 undertaken by private Labs and necessary mechanism to defray expenses and reimbursement to the private Labs.
  • Central Government to give appropriate publicity to the above, and its guidelines to ensure coverage to all those eligible.

[Shashank Deo SUdhi v. Union of India, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 361, order dated 13.04.2020]

Case BriefsCOVID 19Supreme Court

Supreme Court: A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and S Ravindra Bhat has said that doctors and healthcare professionals are “warriors” in fight against coronavirus and have to be protected, even as the Centre assured that it is doing its best by providing them personal protective equipment (PPE) and other facilities. The Court said,

“The Doctors and the medical staff who are the first line of defence of the country to combat with this pandemic have to be protected by providing Personal Protective Equipments as recommended by WHO.”

The Court also showed dismay over ill-treatment of health care professionals at the hands of citizens. It highlighted the incident that occurred in Indore on 02.04.2020, where the Doctors who had gone to screen certain persons regarding coronavirus, were attacked and stones were pelted by certain miscreants. The Court urged all citizens of the country to act in a responsible manner to extend helping hand to the Government and medical staff to perform their duties to contain and combat the COVID-19. It further directed,

“It is the duty of the State and the Police Administration to provide necessary security at all places where patients who have been diagnosed coronavirus positive or who have been quarantined are housed. The Police security be also provided to Doctors and medical staff when they visit places for screening the people to find out the symptoms of disease.”

Hearing through video-conferencing three petitions seeking protective kits for doctors and healthcare workers amid coronavirus pandemic, the Court was informed by the Centre that PPE kits and other requisite things are being arranged and it is taking steps in this regard. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who made it clear that he was not opposing the prayers made in these petitions, told the bench that doctors and healthcare professionals are “corona warriors” and government is ensuring their protection and safety along with their family members. He also denied reports about salary cut of doctors and staffs of hospitals and said the Centre would write to all the states that no salary should be deducted for purchase of PPEs and masks.

“If anybody is doing something like this, we will send police,”

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for one of the petitioners, told the bench that he appreciate the stand of the Solicitor General but doctors are afraid and if medical professionals would not come forward, things would collapse. Rohatgi also pointed out to the reports about corona positive patients escaping from hospitals.

SG said police pickets have been placed in all the hospitals to ensure that people, who should not be mixing with others, should not leave the hospital.

The Court, hence, issued the following directions,

  • The Governmentas per guidelines dated 24.03.2020 of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare are directed to ensure availability of appropriate Personal Protective Equipments, including sterile medical/Nitrile gloves, starch apparels, medical masks, goggles, face shield, respirators (i.e. N-95 Respirator Mask or Triple Layer Medical Mask or equivalent), shoe covers, head covers and coveralls/gowns to all Health Workers including Doctors, Nurses, Ward Boys, other medical and paramedical professionals actively attending to, and treating patients suffering from COVID-19 in India, in Metro cities, Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities.
  • The Government of India, respective States/Union Territories and respective Police authorities are directed to provide the necessary Police security to the Doctors and medical staff in Hospitals and places where patients who have been diagnosed COVID-19 or patients suspected of COVID-19 or those quarantined are housed. Necessary Police security be also extended to Doctors and other medical staff who visit places to conduct screening of people to find out symptoms of disease.
  • The State shall also take necessary action against those persons who obstruct and commit any offence in respect to performance of duties by Doctors, medical staff and 12 other Government Officials deputed to contain COVID-19.
  • The Government shall explore all alternatives including enabling and augmenting domestic production of protective clothing and gear to medical professional. This includes the exploring of alternative modes of production of such clothing (masks, suits, caps, gloves etc.) and permitting movement of raw materials. Further, the Government may also restrict export of such materials to augment inventory and domestic stock.

[Jerryl Banait v, Union of India,  2020 SCC OnLine SC 357, order dated 08.04.2020]

(With inputs from PTI)

Case BriefsCOVID 19Supreme Court

Supreme Court: A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and S Ravindra Bhat has suggested that the Centre should create a mechanism wherein private laboratories conducting COVID-19 tests do not charge exorbitant fees from public and government should reimburse the fees charged by labs.

” at this time of national calamity permitting private Labs to charge Rs.4500 for screening and confirmation test of COVID-19 may not be within means of a large part of population of this country and no person be deprived to undergo the COVID-19 test due to nonpayment of capped amount of Rs.4500.

The Court further said that the private Hospitals including Laboratories have an important role to play in containing the scale of pandemic by extending philanthropic services in the hour of national crisis. It, however, said that it will later consider the question as to whether the private Laboratories carrying free of cost COVID-19 tests are entitled for any reimbursement of expenses incurred.

The Court, hence, issued the following directions:

  • The tests relating to COVID-19 whether in approved Government Laboratories or approved private Laboratories shall be free of cost. Centre shall issue necessary direction in this regard immediately.
  • Tests relating to COVID-19 must be carried out in NABL accredited Labs or any agencies approved by WHO or ICMR.

Centre has told the Court that earlier 15,000 tests were conducted per day by 118 labs and later to enhance the capacity, 47 private labs were allowed to conduct the COVID-19 tests.

The Court was hearing a plea filed by advocate Shashank Deo Sudhi seeking a direction to the Centre and authorities to provide free of cost testing facility for COVID-19 to all citizens in the country. Sudhi told the bench that there should be free testing of COVID-19 by labs in the country as it is expensive.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, said it is a developing situation and government at this juncture does not know how many laboratories will be needed and how long the ongoing lockdown will continue. To this, the bench suggested that the Centre should ensure that private laboratories do not charge high amount and government should create a mechanism for reimbursement of the fees charges for the tests. SG said he would like to take instructions on this front after which the bench said it would pass orders in the matter.

The petitioner has also sought a direction to the authorities for ramping up the testing facilities for COVID-19 at the earliest “given the escalating mortality and morbidity rate across the country”. He has questioned the March 17 advisory of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) which capped Rs 4,500 for testing of COVID-19 in private hospitals or labs, including screening and confirmatory tests.

“It is extremely difficult for the common citizen to get himself/herself tested in the government hospital /labs and being no alternative in the sight, the people are constrained to pay the capped amount to the private hospital/labs for protecting their lives,”

The plea said the impending danger of coronavirus is extremely serious, given the deprived population of the country, and testing is the only way to contain the pandemic. It alleged that authorities are “completely insensitive and indifferent” to the plight of common citizens who are already financially burdened on account of complete lockdown across the country. It urged the March 17 advisory be declared arbitrary and said,

“Further, the capping of the prices of the testing facility of COVID-19 in private hospitals/labs strikes at the Article 14 of the Constitution of India as being arbitrary and unreasonable,”

It also sought a direction for ensuring that all tests relating to COVID-19 are conducted under the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL) or ICMR accredited pathological labs. It said ICMR should be directed to hold regular news briefings through national TV channels about the current situation on coronavirus and precautions to be taken by the citizens. The plea also said that authorities must ensure adequate numbers of testing kits and centers for COVID-19 across the country.

[Shashank Deo Sudhi v. Union of India, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 358, order dated 08.04.2020]

(With inputs from PTI)

Hot Off The PressNews

Supreme Court: The vacation bench of Deepak Gupta and Surya Kant, JJ has agreed to hear a plea seeking a direction to the Centre to urgently constitute a team of medical experts for the treatment of the children in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur, who are suffering from suspected Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES), which has claimed more than 100 lives. The plea was listed to be heard on June 24 after the petitioner’s counsel sought an urgent listing of the matter.

The plea also sought a direction to the Centre for providing all necessary medical equipment and other supports for the effective treatment of the children suffering from the epidemic disease.

The petition filed by advocate Manohar Pratap claimed that he was deeply pained and saddened by the deaths of more than 126 children, mostly in the age group of one to 10 years, in the past week and the figures were rising day by day.

(Source: PTI)

Hot Off The PressNews

Supreme Court: The vacation bench of Deepak Gupta and Surya Kant, JJ has deferred the hearing on a plea seeking protection of doctors in Government hospitals, saying since doctors have called off their strike in West Bengal and other states, there is no urgency to hear the matter. The bench said it will not issue notice to the Centre but will keep the larger issue of protection of doctors open.

“We agreed to hear the plea today as there was a strike by doctors and medical fraternity in West Bengal and other states. The strike has been called off and there appears no urgency to hear the petition. List (the matter) before an appropriate bench,”

Meanwhile, the Indian Medical Association has also filed an impleadment application seeking the court’s intervention into the plea already filed, saying protection needs to be provided to doctors across the country. The bench said it needs to take a holistic view in providing security to doctors.

“We understand it is a serious issue but we can’t provide security to doctors at the cost of other citizens. We have to take a holistic view. We have to look at the larger picture. We are not against protection to doctors,”

Doctors in Bengal had been on strike since two of their colleagues were assaulted allegedly by relatives of a patient after he died last week. They called off their protest Monday night after West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in a meeting assured them of steps by her Government to scale up security at state-run hospitals in the state.

The plea in the Supreme Court was filed on 14.06.2019 to seek directions to Union ministries of home affairs and health and West Bengal to depute government-appointed security personnel at all state-run hospitals to ensure safety and security of doctors. It had also sought directions to Bengal government to take the strictest legal and penal action against those who assaulted the two junior doctors at a hospital in Kolkata. The plea had cited an IMA data to say that more than 75 percent doctors across the country have faced some form of violence. It said the study concluded that 50 percent violent incidents have taken place in the Intensive Care Unit of hospitals and in 70 percent cases, relatives of patients were actively involved.

(Source: PTI)

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Reverting back the matter relating to the validity of a circular issued by the Government of J&K which adverted to the provisions of Rule 10 of the Jammu and Kashmir Government Employees (Conduct) Rules, 1971 which prohibits a government servant from taking up any assignment without the permission of the competent authority, the Court asked the High Court of J&K to constitute a Committee of medical experts and administrators to look into the issue of availability of infrastructure and facilities in government hospitals across the state of Jammu and Kashmir and the facilities for the treatment of patients.

The writ petition filed before the High Court sought a prohibition on private tutoring by government teachers. In addition, the respondents also prayed for a complete ban on private practice by government doctors including those working in medical colleges. The Division Bench held that Rule 10 of the Jammu and Kashmir Government Employees (Conduct) Rules, 1971 does not empower the government to issue general instructions of this nature allowing teachers in government schools to pursue private assignments. The grievance of the State of J&K in the present appeal was that the directions issued by the High Court proceeded on the basis that the circular also regulated government medical doctors engaging in self-employment or other activities. It was urged that the rules governing private practice by government doctors were not placed before the Court. Hence, without considering those rules, the High Court has issued a blanket direction erroneously on the basis that the circular of 11 August, 2005 also covered the services of medical doctors.

The Court was of the opinion that quite apart from the issue of whether government doctors should be allowed to engage in private practice, there are other and, perhaps more fundamental aspects which would arise from the Public Interest Litigation that was instituted before the High Court. Stating that the quality of medical care in government hospitals across the state of Jammu and Kashmir is a matter which should receive attention and oversight in the exercise of the jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution, the 3-Judge Bench of T.S. Thakur, CJ and A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud, JJ said that the following issues need to be taken care of:

  • The availability of adequate infrastructure in government hospitals;
  • The availability of essential equipment for treatment;
  • The availability of staff-medical, para medical and of a supporting nature;
  • Enforcement of conditions of hygiene to secure proper medical treatment facilities; and
  • The availability of essential medicines.

The Court further said that the Committee shall submit a report on the state of public – government hospitals in the state and covering among other things, the areas which have been emphasised above. The High Court would be at liberty, after scrutinizing the report of the Expert Committee and upon hearing the relevant stakeholders including the state, to issue appropriate directions and monitor compliance. The hospitals which are conducted by the state and by public agencies cater to medical needs of the poorest strata of society. The need for ensuring proper medical care of a requisite standard has to be duly addressed. [State of Jammu & Kashmir v. Vichar Kranti International, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 1160 , decided on 21.10.2016]