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COVID-19 "No Popular Government Can Afford To Negate The Basic Human Right To Health": MP High Court Issues Slew Of Directions

Sparsh Upadhyay
19 April 2021 10:22 AM GMT
COVID-19  No Popular Government Can Afford To Negate The Basic Human Right To Health: MP High Court Issues Slew Of Directions
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Referring to various Supreme Court judgments which have interpreted Article 21 of the Constitution of India so as to expand the meaning of the right to life to also include the right to health, the Madhya Pradesh High Court today issued a slew of directions to the State Government. The Bench of Chief Justice Mohammad Rafiq and Justice Atul Sreedharan remarked that, "The right to...

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Referring to various Supreme Court judgments which have interpreted Article 21 of the Constitution of India so as to expand the meaning of the right to life to also include the right to health, the Madhya Pradesh High Court today issued a slew of directions to the State Government.

The Bench of Chief Justice Mohammad Rafiq and Justice Atul Sreedharan remarked that,

"The right to health can be secured to the citizens only if the State provides adequate measures for their treatment, healthcare and takes their care by protecting them from calamities like Coronavirus."

Importantly, the Court also remarked,

"Article 38, Article 39(e), Article 41 and Article 47 in Part-IV of the Constitution of India as well as the fundamental right guaranteed vide Article 21 of the Constitution of India deal with potent and substantive contents of the right to life which in its broad sweep also includes right to good health."

The Court was hearing suo motu Writ Petition, along with other Writ Petitions, which was registered on the basis of a letter (dated 08.06.2020) sent by Dr. Ashwani Kumar, Senior Advocate, Supreme Court of India, New Delhi to the Chief Justice of India.

The said letter dated 08.06.2020 had highlighted a tragic and condemnable sight of an elderly Covid-19 patient, who was chained to a bed in a private hospital at Bhopal.

After that, the Court had passed a number of orders to ensure that the Covid-19 patients in the State are provided timely treatment inasmuch as they are not subjected to harassment and exploitation

State's preparation to deal with COVID-19

At the outset, the Court took into account the various steps taken by the State Government, namely, procuring Oxygen to meet the expected demand of 651 Metric Ton by 30th April, 2021, obtaining injections of Remdesivir, increasing the bed capacity in Government Hospitals, set up Covid Command and Control Centres in of the 52 districts etc.

The Court appreciated the work undertaken by the State Government within the past month or so and the Court also observed that its preparation for the future was quite impressive.

However, the Court added that the state's efforts should also reflect on the ground and the benefit thereof should reach the common man and so, the Court opined that it needs to work hard towards that aim and goal.

Further, the Court observed that the need of the hour is to have best of cooperation and coordination with the Hospitals and Nursing Homes in the private sector and seek their support for timely treatment of the Covid-19 patients so as to save their lives.

For this, the Court advised the State Government to invoke the Epidemic Disease Act, 1897 and Disaster Management Act, 2005 to the extent necessary.

Importantly, the Court said,

"The right of the citizen to adequate healthcare emanates from the dignity and sanctity of the human life which belongs to all of them. Health, besides being a fundamental right, is a basic human right, which no popular government can afford to negate. Health has its own prerequisites of social justice and equality and that it should be accessible to all."

The Court further observed,

"It includes the ability to obtain all kind of healthcare services including prevention, diagnosis, treatment and management of diseases, management of health disorders, diseases and illness as also the management of other health impacting conditions. Such health care should not only be accessible but also be conveniently affordable to all the citizens. The core obligation of the State in securing the right to life to all its citizens is non-negotiable."

Significantly, the Court also highlighted as to how the newspapers of the State during last week have been replete with the reports of incidents where either the patients are allegedly not being admitted or are being allegedly exploited by exorbitant charges by the private hospitals.

Thus, the Court noted that despite being cognizant of its jurisdictional limitations, it could, in an extraordinary situation like the present one, cannot just play a silent spectator.

Consequently, in order to play the role of a catalyst by reminding the State of its duties, for reassuring the people to continue to have faith in the system so as to revive their confidence, the Court issued the following directions (list not exhaustive): -

  • The State Government shall ensure continuous and the regular supply of Oxygen and Remdesivir not only to all the Government Hospitals, City Hospitals, District Hospitals but also to the Private Hospitals/Nursing Homes, which may give Indent of their requirement of Oxygen as well as Remdesivir in advance
  • The State Government shall, if it has already not done so, consider immediately reactivating 262 hospitals Covid Care Centres (CCC), 62 Dedicated Covid Health Centre (DCHC) and 16 Dedicated Covid Hospital (DCH) as per the details furnished to this Court in its order dated 09.10.2020;
  • The State Government shall consider strengthening/ augmenting all the District Hospitals and City Hospitals, which generally cater to the medical needs of middle class/lower middle class and poor/below poverty line families, by providing the necessary equipment and the required quantity of Oxygen, Remdesivir injections.
  • The State Government shall, if it has not already notified the rates, fix the rates for being charged by the private Hospitals/Nursing Homes and private Pathological Labs/ Diagnostic Centres for treatment/tests.
  • The State Government ensure displaying of data with regard to the availability of normal beds, ICU beds, and Ventilators on its Sarthak portal (https://sarthak.nhmmp.gov.in) in all the Government Hospitals and Private Hospitals/ Nursing Homes on a real-time basis.
  • The State Government should require all the private Hospitals/Nursing Homes, Chemists/Medical Shops to display the rates of Remdesivir per vial, separately for generic and branded injections, and all of them should be mandated not to charge more than the prescribed rates;
  • The State Government should give due publicity to the Toll-Free Number 1075 (with the STD code number of respective districts) of its Covid Command and Control Centres so that the Covid patients and their family members/attendants having any grievance with any government or private hospital may immediately lodge their complaint with such Centres
  • The RT-PCR and Rapid Antigen Tests shall be conducted by the Government Laboratories as well as duly approved private Pathological Labs/Diagnostic Centres.
  • The State should consider increasing per day testing number of Covid infected persons for their early detection so as to prevent further spread of Coronavirus.
  • Test reports should be provided to concerned patients positively within 36 hours from the time of collection of sample.

Lastly, noting that this being a national calamity and a country-wide problem, the Court observed that the Central Government should consider stepping in to arrange the Oxygen firstly, by diverting the available stock of Liquid Medical Oxygen from the Steel Plants and other industries located in different parts of the country and secondly, if that is not sufficient, by importing the Oxygen.

The Court further observed that the Remdesivir injection was being sold in the black market and certain arrests have also been made and so the Court said,

"The Central Government should also consider to step in to ensure increase in the production of Remdesivir and till such time it is not done, it should consider procuring the Remdesivir by importing it".

Lastly, disposing of the petitions, the Court directed that an action taken report/progress report on the basis of the aforesaid directions be filed by the State, on or before the next date of hearing in Suo Motu Writ Petition No.8914/2020, which has been posted for further hearing on 10th May 2021.

Click Here To Download Order/Judgment

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