Home News In war against COVID-19, Supreme Court says fundamental right to health includes affordable treatment

In war against COVID-19, Supreme Court says fundamental right to health includes affordable treatment

Supreme Court. File pic

The Supreme Court said on Friday that it is a world war against Covid-19, which needs government-public partnership to make Covid treatment affordable for the common people. The top court emphasised that fundamental right to health includes affordable treatment.

A bench headed by justice Ashok Bhushan and comprising Justices R. Subhash Reddy and M.R. Shah said: “Right to health is a fundamental right guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Right to health includes affordable treatment. Therefore, it is the duty of the state to make provisions for affordable treatment and see that more and more provisions in the hospitals to be run by the state and/or local administration are made.”

The top court noted that it cannot be disputed that for whatever reasons, treatment has become costlier and costlier and it is not affordable to the common people at all. Even if one survives from Covid-19, many times he is finished financially and economically.

The bench insisted that the state government and the local administration should ensure that a cap is fixed on the fees charged by the private hospitals, which can be in exercise of the powers under the Disaster Management Act.

“Due to the unprecedented pandemic, everybody in the world is suffering in one way or the other. It is a world war against Covid-19. Therefore, there should be government-public partnership to end the world war against Covid-19,” said the top court.

The observation was made by the top court in a suo moto case for proper treatment of Covid-19 patients and dignified handling of dead bodies in the hospitals.

Citing that despite guidelines and SOPs, the pandemic has spread like wild fire, the top court said that every state must act vigilantly and work with the Centre harmoniously.

“It is time to rise to the occasion. Safety and health of the citizens must be the first priority, rather than any other considerations,” observed the top court.

The court said that whenever direction is issued under the Disaster Management Act to the corporate hospitals/private hospitals to keep 50 per cent or any other percentage of free beds, it must be strictly complied to.

On the aspect of fire safety standards, especially in Covid-19 hospitals, where it took cognisance of fire accidents in two Covid hospitals in Gujarat, the top court directed that all states and Union Territories should appoint one nodal officer for each Covid hospital, if not already appointed, who shall be made responsible for ensuring the compliance of all fire safety measures.

“In each district, the state government should constitute a committee to carry fire audit of each Covid hospital at least once in a month and inform the deficiency to the management of the hospital and report to the government for taking follow up action,” said the top court.

The bench said that Covid hospitals which have not obtained NOC from the fire department of the state should be asked to immediately apply for NOC.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, had submitted that the government has directed the states and UTs to update their respective local building by-laws, synchronising them in the line of “Model Bill on maintenance of fire and emergency service, 2019”, circulated by the Ministry of Home Affairs on September 16, 2019.

The top court has also directed the states and UTs to bring on record various compliance directions passed by the top court in this suo moto matter.

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