The Bombay High Court on Friday observed that a person suffering from Covid-19 who belongs to the economically weaker section of the society cannot be expected to produce documentary proof before seeking admission in a hospital for free treatment.
Division bench of Justice RD Dhanuka and Justice Madhav Jamdar were hearing via video conference a writ petition filed by seven residents of a slum rehabilitation building in Bandra who were charged Rs.12.5 lakh by KJ Somaiya hospital for Covid-19 treatment in April.
Advocate Vivek Shukla appeared on behalf of the petitioners and submitted that his clients had somehow managed to borrow and arrange the money as the hospital had threatened to stop the discharge if the bill was not cleared. The petitioners could come up with Rs.10 lakh only.
The bench directed the hospital to deposit money before the High Court within two weeks.
As per Section 41AA of the Maharashtra Public Trust Act, the Charity Commissioner and the State Government are empowered to issue directions in respect of hospitals to earmark certain beds for weaker section of the people under Section 41AA(4)(c) and for indigent person under Section 41AA(4)(b) is applicable to the respondent no.1 Trust.
Advocate Shukla also argued that the said hospital was required to reserve 10% beds for people belonging to the economically weaker section of the society and 10% beds for indigent persons, out of the operational beds, but no such beds were provided.
Court noted that out of the 90 beds earmarked under these categories which were reserved, only three patients were admitted by the hospital in the month of March.
Senior Advocate Janak Dwarkadas appeared for the respondent hospital and submitted the petitioners did not belong to any of these categories nor did the petitioners produce any record to prove that they would fall under those categories. It was for the petitioners to produce a certificate of income from the Tehsildar or a certificate from the Social Welfare Officer proving their income, Dwarkadas argued.
Whereas, Advocate Shukla contended that the petitioners having suffered from a Covid-19, required immediate medical help were not required to produce such certificate at the threshold while seeking admission in the hospital.
Moreover, Court perused the affidavit in reply filed by the Charity Commissioner clearly indicating that only three patients have been treated under the hospital scheme since lockdown till the end of May 2020.
Thus, the bench observed-
"Whether it was the duty of the Management of respondent no.1 to enquire whether the persons seeking admission in the respondent no.1 hospital were falling under the category of Section 41AA(4)(b) and (c) or not or whether such patients were required to produce at the threshold the certificates of Tehsildar and Social Welfare Officer before seeking admission in the situation faced by the petitioners for patient of covid are some of the questions which require consideration in this matter.
In our prima-facie view a person who is suffering from the disease like covid-19 is not expected to produce a Tehsildar certificate or certificate from Social Welfare Officer before seeking admission in the hospital for seeking benefits under Section 41AA(4)(c) and (d). We are not inclined to accept the submission made by the learned senior counsel for the respondent no.1 that unless such certificate is produced by the petitioners at the threshold, the respondent no.1 is not liable to admit any such patient under those categories in the precarious situation prevailing at the date of admission of the petitioners."
Finally, Court directed the hospital to deposit a sum of Rs.10,06,205 within two weeks.
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