The Delhi High Court recently set aside an order passed by the District Advisory Committee (DAC), which had cancelled the registration of a private hospital on allegations of conducting a pre-natal test.
Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva termed the punishment too “harsh” and observed, “The action of cancellation of registration of the Hospital, which is a 100 bedded Multi Super-Speciality Hospital and claims to be providing high quality services where ultrasound facilities are required for the functioning of the various departments of the Hospital, appears in the facts and circumstances of the case to be very harsh.”
The Court was hearing a Petition filed by MGS (Super) Speciality Hospital, challenging the order of cancellation passed by the State Appropriate Authority under the Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Technique (PNDT) Act, 1994.
The Hospital had also challenged the denial of permission to purchase new ultrasound machines. This was because six ultrasound machines had been seized from the Hospital pursuant to allegations that a newly appointed doctor was conducting foetus sex determination tests. Criminal proceedings had been initiated against the doctor after he was allegedly caught conducting an ultrasound on a pregnant lady within the hospital premises.
The Authority had challenged the Petition contending that the data stored in the sealed ultrasound machines constituted case property in pending criminal proceedings. De-sealing of the machines, it submitted, would cause “grave prejudice and irreparable damage” to the proceedings. It had further contended that the Hospital was to be held liable for the illegal act conducted by the newly appointed doctor.
The Court, however, agreed with the Hospital’s contention that the ultrasound machines are required for diagnostic purposes and are a necessity for a Super-Speciality Hospital. It further noted that the Authority had not made any attempts to extract the data contained in the hard disks of the ultrasound machines. Moreover, the FIR did not contain any allegations against the Hospital.
Justice Sachdeva, therefore, opined that the cancellation of the Hospital’s registration was too harsh and observed, “The action of cancellation of the Registration, is very harsh and virtually amounts to the entire functioning of the Hospital coming to a standstill. This is more so, in view of the fact that there is no allegation that in the past, the Hospital or its staff was involved in any such violation and further no criminal proceedings have been initiated or sought to be initiated against the Hospital and/or its officers and staff.”
The Court further came down heavily on the authorities for resorting to the highest degree of punishment and observed, “The DAC has completely lost sight of the fact that the Hospital is a 100 bedded Multi Super-Speciality Hospital and it is not possible for a hospital to function without having the facilities of ultrasound. Today ultrasound examination has become the very basic and mandatory diagnostic technique for examination and treatment of nearly all ailments.
Further in today’s day and time, in the absence of availability of adequate government medical facilities, private hospitals provide requisite medical facilities to the public. The Hospitals in that sense render public service.”
Such orders, it said, have the effect of “depriving the general public of medical facilities that a 100 bedded Multi Super-Speciality Hospital has to offer”.
It, thereafter, directed the Magistrate to consider the plea for de-sealing the ultrasound machines and ordered, “In the event the concerned magistrate does not direct the de-sealing of the ultrasound machines and/or does not direct handing over of custody of the said ultrasound machines to the petitioner, within a period of one month, the Hospital shall be deemed to have been granted the permission for procuring new ultrasound machines under the existing registration certificate dated 09.10.2012, subject to the Hospital complying with the requisite formalities.”