New Delhi: Private hospitals, which are charging exorbitant rates from COVID19 patients, are getting much flak from the Supreme Court. ‘‘Why can't you treat them free of cost or at a minimal rate, considering that you have got free land from the government,’’ asked Chief Justice Sharad Arvind Bobde. A nonplussed Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who was present during the virtual court hearing, sought a week's time to get back with a response.
The Bench, which included Justices A.S. Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy, said: “You identify all these hospitals and try to find out whether they can charge a minimal amount or, even better, keep it free of cost.” “They have been given land either free or at a very nominal cost. These charitable hospitals should treat them for free”, said CJI Bobde.
The poser from the court came in the course of the hearing on a PIL filed by one Sachin Jain, seeking direction that the cost of treatment in private hospitals, of Covid patients, across the country, be minimised; also, charitable trust may do it on a no-profit basis. The petitioner also sought that the cost of treatment by other non-charitable hospitals be regulated on a fixed cost basis.
The PIL by Sachin Jain says “...When the nation is fighting a battle against the pandemic, all such private hospitals, which are running on public land (allotted at concessional rates) or are running under the category of “charitable institutions,” should be called upon to provide the hospitalisation and treatment to the Covid-19 patients pro bono or on a no-profit basis.”
Contending that given the enormity of the problem caused by the pandemic, Jain sought roping in the private hospitals with a cap on the cost of treatment, as the public health infrastructure may not be sufficient to handle the burden of Covid cases.