New Delhi: The Supreme Court refused to stay the Delhi High Court order quashing an AAP government circular giving preferential treatment to the residents of the national capital at a city hospital.
A bench of justices M B Lokur and Deepak Gupta posted the matter for further hearing after three weeks as the counsel for the Delhi government sought some time.
“What stay? People are suffering from various illnesses,” the bench said.
On October 12, the high court had quashed a circular of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government giving preferential treatment to the city residents at the GTB Hospital here as a pilot project, saying it had led to the creation of a “class within a class” of identically placed citizens, which was “impermissible”.
It had also rejected the Delhi government’s defence that the decision was taken due to lack of facilities, saying the State “cannot avoid or shirk away” from its constitutional obligations on account of financial constraints or lack of infrastructure and manpower.
The high court had said the “State is obliged and mandated to provide all such facilities as are to be provided to a citizen, particularly, the requirement envisaged under Article 21 of the Constitution and the reasons given before us cannot be substantial or reasonable reasons for shirking away from discharging this constitutional liability”.
The court did not approve of the AAP government’s decision to classify patients as Delhi residents and non-residents based on their voter ID cards, saying such classification “was based on no reasonable justification”.
The decision had come while allowing a PIL by NGO Social Jurist, filed through advocate Ashok Agarwal, challenging the October 1 circular issued by the Delhi government regarding the commencement of the pilot project at the Guru Teg Bahadur (GTB) Hospital in east Delhi’s Dilshad Garden.
Quashing the circular, the high court had said it classified identically situated persons differently for the purpose of granting them medical facility “without any rational basis” and therefore, could not be upheld.
It had said the circular proposed to achieve the goal of decongestion and avoid situations like the assault on doctors due to an outburst of the patient population but to do that, the government was practising a classification which was prohibited under the law.
The classification was not based on any scientific system but on the availability of a voter ID card, the court had said.
It had noted that according to the circular, the patients who were not residents of Delhi were given a light blue coloured OPD card and the facilities of free medicines, pharmacy and investigation (tests) — both pathological and radiological — were denied to them.
The proposal to give preference to the city residents at the GTB Hospital, one of the several hospitals run by the Delhi government, was approved in August by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
Under the pilot project, Delhi residents were to get preference at the registration counters, in-patient department, tests and medicine counter at the hospital and identification was to be done on the basis of voter identity cards.