Justice Navin Chawla issued notice to the Delhi government and sought its stand on the plea by an Association of Practising Pathologists which has contended that the price fixed would not cover the cost of consumables to be used in the test.
The association also contended that the price cap cannot be made applicable to TrueNat and CBNAAT tests, which are also used to detect COVID-19 infection, as they use cartridges which are very expensive.
It further said that sensitivity of TrueNat and CBNAAT was 98 per cent and 100 per cent, respectively, which were much higher than that of RTPCR open ended system test which stood at 67-70 per cent. It also said that approximate costs incurred by the labs on TrueNat and CBNAAT tests were Rs 2,000 and Rs 3,500, respectively and were higher than the amount of Rs 1,200 for RTPCR.
The Delhi government, represented by its standing counsel Ramesh Singh and additional standing counsel Gautam Narayan, told the court that the price cap was not applicable to CBNAAT and TrueNAT tests as these are different from RTPCR. The court also noted that the three tests are not common and hence a common price cannot be fixed for them.
RT/PCR, short for Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction, is a laboratory technique widely used in the diagnosis of genetic diseases and to measure gene expression in research. Cartridge-based nucleic acid amplification test (CBNAAT) is a recently introduced polymerase chain reaction (PCR) based method for detection of TB.
TrueNat is an indigenously developed portable version of CBNAAT and was also meant for detecting tuberculosis (TB). The association, in its petition, has sought quashing of the November 30 notification of the Delhi government capping price of RTPCR tests at Rs 800.
It has claimed that ‘the continuance of the unreasonable price cap, would force the labs to compromise on quality of kits and testing standards and such actions would be counter-productive in the fight against COVID and the health of the residents of Delhi”.
During the hearing, Singh told the court that the association ought to have first moved a representation to the Delhi government regarding their concerns before rushing to the court. He said that had they done so, they would have found out that the price cap was not applicable to TrueNat and CBNAAT tests.
Singh and Narayan further told the court that even the association’s concern over the price cap of Rs 800 could have been considered had they moved a representation. They also told the court that a similar issue was being considered by the Supreme Court and therefore, the petitioners could have filed an application in the apex court.
The court, however, said the notification in question was not before the top court. The court, while listing the matter for hearing on February 25, 2021, declined to go into the prayer in the petition with regard to alleged delay in clearance of bills of the private labs by the Delhi government which outsources tests to them.