Nagpur: The Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court on Friday 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.
A division bench of Justices Ravi Deshpande and Pushpa Ganediwala quashed and set aside two notifications issued by the state government in April and May 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.
"We hold that the State Legislature is not competent either to frame any law or issue any notification regulating the rates chargeable by private hospitals to non-COVID patients," the court said.
The court further held 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 court was hearing a petition filed by Hospitals' Association of Nagpur and one Dr Pradeep Arora against the notifications.
The petition 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.
Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni, while opposing the petitions, argued there was a medical emergency situation prevailing in the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
He argued that when the state government had the power to regulate rates charged by private hospitals to COVID-19 patients, then the power to prescribe rates for non-COVID patients was also inherent.
He said the rates prescribed for non-COVID patients were model, reasonable and competitive.
The court 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".
The court refused the additional government pleader's request to stay operation of the order for a period of four weeks to allow the government to appeal in Supreme Court.