New Delhi: The Supreme Court asked the central government Wednesday to make COVID-19 tests free of cost to all citizens. This observation came after some private laboratories were found out to be charging Rs 4,500 per person for the COVID-19 tests.
The Centre has roped in private hospitals across the country as it on its own does not have adequate amount of testing facilities as positive coronavirus cases continue to rise in India. Till Wednesday morning the total number of reported positive coronavirus cases in the country stand at Rs 5,194. The dreaded virus has so far claimed 149 lives in India.
A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and S Ravindra Bhat asked the government to explore the feasibility of a mechanism to reimburse private labs for coronavirus tests so that citizens don’t have to pay for it.
“Don’t allow private labs to charge high amount for tests. Create mechanism for reimbursement (of private labs) from government,” Justice Bhushan said.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing on behalf of the Centre, told the court that he will take instructions in this regard.
The petitioner, advocate Shashank Deo Sudhi, submitted that government hospitals are packed to capacity and it has become difficult for the common man to get himself/herself tested in the government labs.
With no alternative in sight, they are forced to pay a large amount to get the tests done at private labs. However, Deo said that for the ordinary citizen the amount of Rs 4,500 is indeed quite big and a huge financial burden. Many are not conducting the tests just because they do not have the capacity to pay such a big amount, the petitioner further pointed out. It effectively deprives them of their accessibility to medical facilities and is violative of right to life guaranteed under article 21 of the Constitution.