Tests relating to COVID-19 whether in approved government laboratories or private laboratories should be immediately made free of cost, the Supreme Court observed on Wednesday. An interim order for this was passed by the SC bench consisting of Justices Ashok Bhushan and Ravindra S Bhat. The court in its order also observed that the amount of INR 4,500 being charged by the private laboratories for the tests was unfeasible.
- The Supreme Court on Wednesday observed that COVID-19 tests across the country should be done free of cost. The order came as a response to the petition filed by Advocate Shashank Deo Sudhi.
- The two-judge bench observed in its judgment, that an amount of INR 4,500 being charged by the private laboratories for COVID-19 tests was not feasible.
- The petition also sought a direction for ensuring that all tests relating to COVID-19 are conducted under NABL or ICMR accredited pathological labs.
No Person Should Be Deprived Of The COVID-19 Test
The direction of making all the tests free of the cost comes under the base that not everyone can be tested in a government laboratory, and not everyone can afford the amount of Rs 4,500 for the test. “We find prima facie substance in the submission of the petitioner that at this time of national calamity permitting private Labs to charge Rs. 4500 for screening and confirmation test of COVID-19 may not be within means of a large part of the population of this country and no person be deprived to undergo the COVID-19 test due to nonpayment of the capped amount of Rs.4500. It is submitted before us that insofar as Government Laboratories are concerned the COVID-19 test is conducted free of cost,” the bench observed.
“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,” the petition filed by Advocate Shashank Deo Sudhi stated. The court has given the government a time of two weeks to file an affidavit in reply. Adv. Bhushan observed that the tests could be made free across the country or if a reimbursement mechanism could be drawn so that charges by private labs can be paid by the government.
Tests Should Be Conducted Only At Authorized Labs
The apex court also observed that the tests be conducted only at authorized labs. The authorized labs include the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration (NABL) accredited labs or agencies approved by the World Health Organization or the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
The Central Government had roped in private laboratories to conduct the tests after it was found that we do not have enough government laboratories to perform the tests. According to Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the government, “Almost 15,000 tests are being done by 118 laboratories. This was not sufficient. So private labs had to be roped in for COVID 19 tests. We have involved 47 private laboratory chains. It’s a developing situation,” Bar and Bench reported.
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