Delhi-based private hospitals that were given land at subsidised rates will have to provide free treatment to 25 per cent Out Patient Department (OPD) and 10 per cent Inpatient Department (IPD) patients belonging to the economically weaker sections (EWS), the Supreme Court ruled on Monday.
A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra set aside the April 28, 2014 order of the Delhi High Court, which had quashed the order of the Land and Development Office (L&DO), Ministry of Urban Development and the Delhi government that made it mandatory for hospitals to provide free treatment to persons from EWS category.
The apex court also said that if hospitals flout the order, it could even lead to cancellation of lease.
PTI quoted advocate Ashok Aggarwal, who represented NGO Social Jurist, as saying that the details of the verdict are awaited, but the bench in its pronouncement had reversed the High Court’s order.
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Four hospitals — Moolchand Hospital, St Stephen’s Hospital, Rockland Hospital and the Sitaram Bhartia Institute of Science and Research — had approached the High Court in 2012 against orders issued by the Delhi government and the L&DO, which amended the provisions of the lease granted to the hospitals.
The orders inserted a provision in the lease, making it mandatory for hospitals to give free treatment to EWS patients in both the OPD and and IPD.
The order for free treatment to the poor had been issued by the government following directions from the High Court and the Supreme Court. At the time, the government had decided that all hospitals, which had received land at a concessional rate and had the provisions in their lease deeds, would be mandated to provide free treatment to EWS patients up to 25 per cent in OPD and 10 per cent in the IPD.
The hospitals had argued that the government could not issue such orders since they had purchased the land at market rates and the original lease deeds for the land did not contain the freeship clause.
“The fundamental right of the hospitals to do business cannot be taken away by an executive order and it can be done only by enacting a law,” the hospitals had argued.
The High Court accepted the hospitals’ arguments, adding that the conditions of the lease could have been modified only if the existing lease deeds or the statute under which they were created had a condition that they could be amended. “Whilst the state’s effort to maximise area of public health system at no cost or minimum cost is undeniably in public interest, such objective has to be achieved through the route of legislation. In the present case, the route taken by the respondent is not accurate…,” the court had said.
“This court only seeks to emphasise that while any endeavour to bring the directive principle (to provide free treatment to poor) to fruition is laudable, such effort must be by way of a legislation, especially when the rights guaranteed under part III of the Constitution are likely to be infringed through such actions,” it had added.