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Kerala High Court Refuses To Stay Govt Order Capping RTPCR Tests At Rs 500

Lydia Suzanne Thomas
7 May 2021 7:15 AM GMT
Kerala High Court Refuses To Stay Govt Order Capping RTPCR Tests At Rs 500
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The Kerala High Court on Friday refused to grant interim stay in petitions filed by ten private laboratories challenging the Kerala Government's decision to cap the rates of Covid-19 RT-PCR tests at Rs 500.Justice N Nagaresh, when taking up the petition, recorded a prima facie finding that the Government's decision was taken following a market survey.Refusing to issue an interim order in...

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The Kerala High Court on Friday refused to grant interim stay in petitions filed by ten private laboratories challenging the Kerala Government's decision to cap the rates of Covid-19 RT-PCR tests at Rs 500.

Justice N Nagaresh, when taking up the petition, recorded a prima facie finding that the Government's decision was taken following a market survey.

Refusing to issue an interim order in the case, the Court recorded,

"Prima facie it appears that Govt has arrived at RTPCR test after conducting market survey."

The Court added that it was discernible from data that costs of PCR including swabs ranged from Rs 135 to Rs 250.

Senior Advocate S Sreekumar, appearing for the labs, asserted that private labs were not heard or their inputs considered prior to the Government's order. This would be violative of the Kerala High Court's ruling that specifically directed the government to consider the labs' objections to a price cap. He also questioned the methodology and data the State had relied upon when collecting information.

"The State has unilaterally collected some data..."he argued.

To this Justice Nagaresh said, "That (collecting data) is not an adjudicatory process, State may have their own method (of collecting data)"

Additional Advocate General Ranjith Thampan, on the other hand, averred that the government had considered costs and prices prevailing in other states. He also revealed that the decision to slash rates was taken in light of prices in Kerala being among the highest in the country.

Recording a prima facie view that the government had undertaken a market study to reach its decision to cap the rate, the Court refused to pass interim orders in the case.

In addition to this, the Court refused to consider the apprehensions of the private labs against "coercive action".

"That may be considered later", Justice Nagaresh said.

While hearing the plea of the private laboratories on Tuesday, Justice Nagaresh asked the State on what basis it issued the order and orally expressed that the Court would interfere it was found that the order was not backed by law.

The Court asked the State to place a statement on record detailing the reasons that led to the State Government's decision.

The labs averred that they first heard of the cap on rates from social media and news flashes and had not received any prior intimation of the government's initiative. Additionally, even after the decision was taken, only soft copies of the orders circulated by government officials over WhatsApp reached the petitioners, the labs contended.

The petitioners challenge the decision as arbitrary and violative of principles of natural justice since they were not consulted. It is asserted that the new order goes against the order of the Supreme Court where labs were permitted to charge a rate prescribed by the Indian Council of Medical Research. Only rates of testing vis-à-vis patients under the Ayushman Bharat Scheme and others from weaker sections are presently constrained, it is stated. The petitioners also take the stance that their labs cater only for the few who can afford it or seek its services for its quality and reliability.

Click here to download the order


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