The Supreme Court on Monday refused to direct the government to nationalize India's healthcare sector to combat the threat of COVID-19.
"This is not a decision the Court can ask the government to take. We cannot order nationalisation of hospitals. The government has already taken over some hospitals", said the Bench comprising of Justices Ashok Bhushan and Ravindra Bhat while hearing the plea.
Justice Bhushan further alluded to this prayer, of nationalization of the healthcare sector, as 'misconceived' while Solicitor General Tushar Mehta urged for this petition, filed by Advocate Amit Dwivedi, to be dismissed.
With regard to Dwivedi's alternate prayer, for directing healthcare entities to conduct all tests, procedures and treatments related to COVID-19 free of cost, the Bench informed him that the same was tagged with another petition seeking the same.
Satisfied with the efforts of the government, the Court recorded that "everyone is doing their work. The government is taking all kinds of effective steps for treatment of persons infected with COVID-19."
Filed by advocate Amit Dwivedi, the petition asserts that the fight against the novel Corona Virus would require a great deal of reliance on healthcare facilities and the public health sector is not sufficiently equipped to handle this requirement alone. Therefore, argues Dwivedi, the private sector must also be roped in and "all health care facilities, all 36 institutes, all companies and all entities related to health care sector" must be nationalized to defeat the pandemic.
To buttress his point, the petitioner highlights the poor state of affairs of India's public health care system, and attributes it primarily to the lack of expenditure on the same.
"In the budget of 2020, India chose to allocate only 1.6% of its total estimated budget expenditure on public health…For years expenditure on public health facilities has been low and as a result of which India's public health infrastructure is substandard and inadequate, more peculiar in the time of pandemics like COVID-19, in comparison to the world and unfortunately we could not see much development in this front."