Make Covid-19 Tests By Private Labs Free, Supreme Court Tells Government
The Supreme Court today asked the government to ensure all tests for Covid-19 infection are conducted free by public and private laboratories.
“We find prima facie substance in the submission of petitioner that at this time of national calamity, permitting private labs to charge Rs 4,500 for screening and confirmation test of Covid-19 may not be within means of a large part of population of this country,” a top court bench of Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice S Ravindra Bhat said in an interim order. “…and no person [should] be deprived to undergo the Covid-19 test due to non-payment of capped amount of Rs 4,500.”
The court asked the central government to immediately pass directions to enable free testing for all citizens.
Government and private facilities accredited by National Accreditation Board for Test and Calibration Laboratories or agencies approved by the World Health Organisation or Indian Council of Medical Research are allowed to test for the novel coronavirus. The government labs conduct tests for free, while private labs charge for them.
The top court’s order came on a petition by a lawyer, Shashank Deo Sudhi, who challenged the March 17 advisory by the ICMR allowing private labs to charge up to Rs 4,500 for a test. He sought free testing given the increasing number of patients. According to the Union Health Ministry, India has reported 5,274 confirmed Covid-19 cases, including 149 deaths and 410 who have been cured.
The Supreme Court suggested that the government can come up with a mechanism where the private laboratories can be reimbursed for these tests, instead of making the citizens for it.
“The question as to whether the private Laboratories carrying free of cost Covid-19 tests are entitled for any reimbursement of expenses incurred shall be considered later,” the top court said. It gave the government two weeks to file its reply.