Begin typing your search above and press return to search.
Top Stories

Extent Of Applicability Of Centre's Insurance Scheme For Health Workers Fighting COVID-19: Supreme Court Issues Notice

Mehal Jain
20 Oct 2021 2:01 PM GMT
Extent Of Applicability Of Centres Insurance Scheme For Health Workers Fighting COVID-19: Supreme Court Issues Notice
x

The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued notice on a petition raising the issue of the construction of the Centre's Insurance Scheme for Health Workers Fighting COVID-19, in so far as it employs the terminology 'requisitioned/drafted for COVID-19 related responsibilities', to determine the extent of its applicability in the interest of private medical practitioners.The scheme stipulates that as...

The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued notice on a petition raising the issue of the construction of the Centre's Insurance Scheme for Health Workers Fighting COVID-19, in so far as it employs the terminology 'requisitioned/drafted for COVID-19 related responsibilities', to determine the extent of its applicability in the interest of private medical practitioners.

The scheme stipulates that as per the announcement made under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package, the launch of 'Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package : Insurance Scheme for Health Workers Fighting COVID-19' is approved and that it will be a comprehensive personal accident cover of Rs. 50 lakh for ninety days to a total of around 22.12 lakh public healthcare providers, including community health workers, who may have to be in direct contact and care of COVID-19 patients and who may be at risk of being impacted by this. It will also include accidental loss of life on account of contracting COVID- 19.
The bench of Justices D. Y. Chandrachud and B. V. Nagarathna recorded that the issue which is raised before the court turns upon the construction of a scheme which was notified by the Union government in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on March 28, 2020 under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package: Insurance Scheme for Health Workers Fighting COVID-19. "It appears that under the scheme, a personal accident cover was provided under the auspices of the New India Assurance Co. Ltd. extending to an amount of Rs. 50 lakh. Clause (2) of the order of the MOHFW of March 28, 2020, inter alia, contains the following stipulation: 'On account of the unprecedented situation, private hospital staff, retired, volunteers, local urban bodies, contract, daily wage, ad-hoc, outsourced staff requisitioned by states/Central hospitals/autonomous hospitals of Centre, states, UTs, AIIMS & hospitals of central ministries can also be drafted for COVID19-related responsibilities. These cases will also be covered subject to numbers indicated by MoHFW'".
The bench recorded that the instant proceedings challenge the rejection of a writ petition which was instituted before the Bombay High Court by one Ms. Kiran Bhaskar Surgade whose spouse, Dr. B. S. Sudgade, died on June 10, 2020, during the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. "The petitioner before the High Court has been impleaded as the third petitioner in these proceedings under Article 136 of the Constitution. However, apart from her, several other doctors, as well as survivors of medical professionals who died due to the COVID-19 pandemic, have joined in the proceedings before the court", recorded the bench.
"A notice was issued on March 31, 2020, by the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation through the Commissioner of the Corporation calling upon Dr. Sudgade to keep his hospital/dispensary open for the treatment of patients suffering from Covid 19 during the period of the lockdown. The case before the High Court was that Dr Sudgade, responding to the notice, was compelled to keep his dispensary open and he eventually succumbed to the pandemic. In this context, it may be noted that on March 14, 2020, a notification was issued through the Public Health Department of the government of Maharashtra, framing regulations for the prevention and containment of COVID-19, in terms of the provisions of sections 2, 3 and 4 of the Epidemic Diseases Act. Regulation 10 stipulated that the staff of all government departments and other organisations of the area would be at the disposal of the collector or municipal commissioner for discharging the duty of taking containment measures, and if required, they may also requisition the services of other persons. It was in pursuance of the above regulations that the notice of March 31, 2020 was issued."
"It appears from the judgment of the High Court that the government of Maharashtra has addressed a letter of October 1, 2020 to the Secretary in the Department of Health and Family Welfare of the Union government seeking a specific clarification in regard to the applicability of the scheme to private practitioners. In response, the Union government in its communication of October 1, 2020 highlighted clause (2) of the order of March 28, 2020 which refers to requisition of services; drafting of personnel for COVID-19 related responsibilities. The High Court rejected the writ petition on the ground that the services of Dr Sudgade were not requisitioned for Covid 19 and the notice issued on March 31, 2020 cannot be considered as a notice of requisition of services for treating COVID-19. The High Court has held that the notice does not mandate that the dispensary was required to be kept open for COVID-19", recorded the bench.
The bench observed that "The issue that has been raised in the SLP is a matter of public importance since it has a bearing on the security which is sought to be provided by the Union government to the health professionals who have served the nation in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. Prima facie, the object of the scheme appears to be to provide a measure of Social Security to the health professionals because of the exposure that they are liable to suffer in the course of the discharge of their medical duty, both in public and private institutions", the bench proceeded to note.
"Consequently, though the petition before the High Court was instituted by a sole petitioner aggrieved by the denial of compensation on account of death of her spouse, we are inclined to permit the other petitioners to join in the proceedings since it relates to a matter which raises an issue of nation-wide concern. Notice shall be issued to the respondent, returnable in three weeks", ordered the bench.
The bench also granted liberty to serve the standing counsel for the state of Maharashtra, and the liberty to serve the central agency.
"We request the Solicitor General of India to assist us on the interpretation of the policy so that a wholesome object and the intent underlying the insurance scheme will be duly fulfilled", the bench added.
Case Title: Pradeep Arora v. Director, Health Department


Next Story