Govt cannot cap prices of treatment for Non-COVID patients: Supreme Court
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday refused to interfere with a Bombay High Court order quashing the Maharashtra government notifications regulating the rates chargeable by private hospitals and nursing homes to non-Covid patients. A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and M R Shah said it is not going to interfere with the high court order as the state government cannot issue such notifications.
At the outset, advocate Rahul Chitnis, appearing for the Maharashtra government, said the state has filed an appeal against the October 23, last year order of the high court quashing the notifications relating to capping of price of treatment for non-Covid patients.
The bench said that it cannot issue such notifications at the time when the State government itself does not have necessary infrastructure to treat non-Covid patients at government hospitals.
"Non-Covid patients are bound to move to private hospitals when you don't have necessary infrastructure. Sorry, we will not interfere," the bench said.
On October 23, last year, the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court had said the Maharashtra government does not have powers to frame any law or issue any notification regulating the rates chargeable by private hospitals and nursing homes to non-Covid patients.
It had quashed and set aside two notifications issued by the state government in April and May last year to the extent applicable to non-Covid patients in private hospitals and nursing homes.
Through the notifications, the government prescribed a rate card for private hospitals and nursing homes while treating non-COVID patients.
The notifications said private hospitals and nursing homes are required to keep 80 per cent of their beds reserved to treat COVID-19 patients and the remaining 20 per cent could be used to treat non-Covid patients.
The court had further held that the Epidemic Diseases Act, Disaster Management Act and Covid Regulations do not empower the state government to issue directions in relation to non-Covid patients being treated in private hospitals and nursing homes.
The high court passed the order on petitions filed by Hospitals' Association of Nagpur and one Dr Pradeep Arora against the notifications.
The petition had said the fundamental right to practice any profession under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution includes the right to charge rates reasonable and proportionate to the nature and quality of medical treatment and allied services rendered to non-Covid patients.
The rates prescribed by the state government are unreasonably low and to insist upon providing treatment and services to non-Covid patients at such rates cannot be justified, the petition stated.
The state government had opposed the petitions while contending that there was a medical emergency situation prevailing in the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The high court had held the government's notifications were "clearly an encroachment over the fundamental rights of the petitioner under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution of India to practise any profession".