30 April 2021 2:30 PM GMT
The Kerala High Court on Friday declared that the State has an unexpendable role in controlling and containing attempts to profiteer off of the situation prevailing in the state. A Division Bench of Justices Devan Ramachandran and MR Anitha took up a petition seeking uniform COVID-19 treatment tariffs across private hospitals, labs, and diagnostic centers in the state. Voicing...
The Kerala High Court on Friday declared that the State has an unexpendable role in controlling and containing attempts to profiteer off of the situation prevailing in the state.
A Division Bench of Justices Devan Ramachandran and MR Anitha took up a petition seeking uniform COVID-19 treatment tariffs across private hospitals, labs, and diagnostic centers in the state.
Voicing its concern at the petitioner's submissions, the Court stated that the state's roles in regulating costs would be fraught with legal and procedural difficulties.
However, the Court continued, when citizens were being pushed to the precipice, "the State has an unexpendable role to control and contain profiteering and the chase of lucre by any stakeholder - including private hospitals"
The Bench added that the regulation became all the more crucial since citizens had no reference point as to what defined a fair price.
"Nor is it possible for him to secure access of a price range, based on scientific and acceptable methodology", the Court additionally pointed out.
Ultimately, the Court expressed that the fixing of a price "can certainly be done only by the State."
Averring that private medical centers and testing centers in Kerala are charging high prices for diagnostic tests and treatment of Covid-19, the petition filed by one Advocate Sabu Thomas through Advocates CN Sreekumar, Manju Paul and Sureshkumar C contends that prices charged "exploit the pandemic situation and fear of people in the society."
The petition asserted that the state government is bound to take appropriate action or remedial measures to control regularize the high charges imposed by Private Hospital for the treatment of Covid-19 patients.
The plea termed the effective denial of access to Covid facilities as a failure by the government to assure to citizens the right to good health under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, and said,
""The State Government should assure that the every citizen should be provided with facility to get adequate treatment through Government Health Services or else assure the treatment through other private facilities in the present rapid spread of Covid-19 and unavailability of beds, ICU's and Oxygen supported beds etc. in the Government Hospitals."
When the plea was taken up today, State Attorney K.V. Sohan submitted in Court that the State Government had also issued an order last year dated July 6, 2020, regulating the 3 costs of treatment in private hospitals. These stipulations apply in full force even as on date, he asserted.
Any downward revision would certainly be considered after consulting the necessary stakeholders including managements of private hospitals, the State Attorney assured the Court.
In this respect, he prayed that the matter be called again on May 4.
Upon this request, the Court said,
"We, therefore adjourn this matter to be called on 04.05.2021, for the State to respond with their suggestions in this matter, adverting to the specific contention of the petitioner that the situation today is in fact far more graver than in July, 2020, when the above mentioned Government Order had been issued."
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"The new wave inexorably brings with it memories of the experience of the first one, last year", the Court commented, taking the opportunity of reflecting on the surge in cases. The Bench also drew parallels with the situation last year where similar prayers for a relaxation in treatment costs were made.
Remarking that the Covid-19 situation was far graver this year than it was the last time around, the Court noted,
"When we confront the new wave of the pandemic, the impact is as grave, if not more. We read a remark of a hapless patient somewhere that 'it is easier to survive the shock of the disease than what is inflicted by the hospital bills'", the Court observes in its order.
The Court also said ,
"When the pandemic first hit us, a sense of anamorphic confusion and brooding uncertainty befell us. Ordinary and hard working citizens were torn between the social and emotional fallout of distancing protocols and lock downs, on one hand and by the excruciating load of medical treatment costs on the other; which spurred several States to bring out notifications/orders capping and regulating such, last year."
Directing that the matter be called on May 4, the matter was adjourned.
CASE: Adv Sabu Thomas v. State of Kerala
Click here to download the order