The Supreme Court on Wednesday observed that Covid-19 tests should be conducted for free at private labs, and that it would soon pass an appropriate order in this regard.
A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and S Ravindra Bhat also directed the central government to ensure that private labs do not charge exorbitant fees from public for Covid-19 test. It suggested the Centre to create an “effective mechanism for reimbursement from government for tests.”
Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, said that the government is doing its best in this front. He said 15,000 tests were earlier conducted per day by 118 labs, and later to enhance the capacity, 47 private labs were allowed to conduct the COVID-19 tests.
At present, private laboratories are allowed to charge Rs 4,500 from people to test for the coronavirus disease (Covid-19).
The top court was hearing a plea filed by advocate Shashank Deo Sudhi seeking a direction to the Centre and authorities to provide free of cost testing facility for COVID-19 to all citizens in the country.
The petition has questioned the March 17 advisory of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) which capped Rs 4,500 for testing of COVID-19 in private hospitals or labs, including screening and confirmatory tests.
“It is extremely difficult for the common citizen to get himself/herself tested in the government hospital /labs and being no alternative in the sight, the people are constrained to pay the capped amount to the private hospital/labs for protecting their lives,” it said.
“Further, the capping of the prices of the testing facility of COVID-19 in private hospitals/labs strikes at the Article 14 of the Constitution of India as being arbitrary and unreasonable,” it said and urged that the March 17 advisory be declared arbitrary.
The number of coronavirus cases in India rose to 5,194 on Wednesday, including the 149 patients who have died and 401 who have been treated and discharged.
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