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There shall be cap on fees charged by private hospitals in exercise of the powers under DM Act: SC

Either more and more provisions are to be made by the State Government and the local administration or there shall be cap on the fees charged by the private hospitals, which can be in exercise of the powers under the Disaster Management Act. (Para 6)

In Re: The Proper Treatment Of COVID 19 Patients And Dignified Handling Of Dead Bodies In The Hospitals Etc.

Suo Motu Writ Petition (Civil) No.7 Of 2020

Decided on December 18, 2020.

A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justice Ashok Bhushan Justice R. Subhash Reddy and Justice M.R. Shah dealt with the present petition.

The Court heard Shri Tushar Mehta, learned Solicitor General for India and learned counsel appearing for various States. The Court took suo motu cognizance of the incident which happened in Rajkot, Gujarat on 26.11.2020 resulting in death of Covid patients in the Covid Hospital. The Court has also taken notice of earlier incidents of fire in Covid Hospitals. The learned Solicitor General had submitted that immediate steps shall be taken and the report will be submitted. The Union of India has called for the status of implementation of guidelines issued in reference to preventing recurrence of fire accidents in Hospitals, status of ‘No Objection Certificate’, report regarding inspection and re-inspection of Hospitals and Nursing Homes.

Although different States and Union Territories have taken measures and conducted inspections, found out shortcomings regarding prevention of occurrence of fire in the Hospitals and Nursing Homes, further, audits and inspections are required to be taken. The Union of India has directed the States and Union Territories to update their respective local building bye laws/fire services synchronising them in line of “Model Bill on maintenance of fire and emergency service, 2019”, circulated by Ministry of Home Affairs on 16.09.2019. The State of Gujarat had filed separate affidavit bringing on record the directions issued by the State and the details of inspection undertaken and audit of few dedicated Covid hospitals. It further stated that a nodal officer for fire safety has been appointed in dedicated covid hospitals (Government and Private hospitals). The affidavit also emphasized on the directions issued by the State of Gujarat with regard to the issue.

Emphasizing on the fundamental right under Article 21, the Court observed the following:

Right to health is a fundamental right guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Right to health includes affordable treatment. Therefore, it is the duty upon the State to make provisions for affordable treatment and more and more provisions in the hospitals to be run by the State and/or local administration are made. It cannot be disputed that for whatever reasons the treatment has become costlier and costlier and it is not affordable to the common people at all. Even if one survives from COVID-19, many times financially and economically he is finished. Therefore, either more and more provisions are to be made by the State Government and the local administration or there shall be cap on the fees charged by the private hospitals, which can be in exercise of the powers under the Disaster Management Act. (Para 6)

With respect to lack of implementation of the Guidelines and SOPs issued, the Court observed:

A strict and stern action should be taken against those who are violating the Guidelines and SOPs, whoever he may be and whatever position the violator is occupying. (Para 7)

People should understand their duty and follow rules very strictly. It is the duty of every citizen to perform their fundamental duties as guaranteed under the Constitution of India. By not following the Guidelines/SOPs issued by the State from time to time, such as, not wearing the masks, not keeping social distances, to participate in the gatherings and the celebrations without maintaining social distances, they are ultimately not damaging themselves but they cause damage to the others also. (Para 9)

Concluding, the Court issued the following directions:

i) More and more police personnel shall be deployed at the places where there is likelihood of gathering by the people, such as, Food Courts, Eateries, Vegetable Markets (Wholesale or Retail), sabzi Mandies, bus stations, railway stations, street vendors, etc.

ii) As far as possible, unless must, no permission shall be granted by the local administration or the Collector/DSP for celebration/gathering even during the day hours and wherever the permissions are granted, the local administration/DSP/Collector/Police In-charge of the local police station shall ensure the strict compliance of the Guidelines/SOPs. There should be a mechanism to check the number of people attending such function/gathering, such as, the particulars with respect to how many persons are going to attend the celebration/gathering, timings during which the celebration/gathering is to take place etc.

iii) There shall be more and more testing and to declare the correct facts and figures. One must be transparent in number of testing and declaring the facts and figures of the persons who are Corona Positive. Otherwise, the people will be misled and they will be under impression that everything is all right and they will become negligent.

iv) Whenever directions are issued under the Disaster Management Act directing the corporate hospitals/private hospitals to keep 50% or any other percentage free municipal beds, it must be strictly complied with and there shall be constant vigilance and supervision.

v) There shall be free helpline numbers to redress the grievances of common man, when there is non- compliance of the directions by the private hospitals/corporate hospitals.

vi) Curfew on weekends/night be considered by States where it is not in place.

vii) In a micro containment zone or in an area where number of cases are on higher side, to cut the chain, they should be sealed and there should be complete lockdown so far as such areas are concerned. Such containment areas need to be sealed for few days except essential services. The same is required to break the chain of virus spread.

viii) Any decision to impose curfew and/or lockdown must be announced long in advance so that the people may know and make provisions for their livelihood, like ration etc.

ix) Another issue is a fatigue of front row health care officers, such as, Doctors, Nurses as well as workers. They are already exhausted physically and mentally due to tireless work for eight months. Some mechanism may be required to give them intermittent rest. (Para 11)

With respect to the issue raised regarding gathering organised by Political parties, the Court stated:

All the States / Union Territories to issue necessary directions to ensure compliance of aforesaid guidelines and guidelines although were issued by General Election/Bye Election, that can be implemented by different States with suitable modifications with reference to Elections of other organisations to ensure safety of people in general from Covid-19. (Para 14)

The Court allowed four weeks’ time to all the States and Union of India to file affidavit bringing on record various measures as indicated in this order for consideration and further directions.

Jhanavi M



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