Madhya Pradesh High Court Takes Stock Of Surging Demand In State For Oxygen & Live-Saving Drugs; Issues Slew Of Directions
The Madhya Pradesh High Court (Jabalpur Bench) issued a slew of directions to the State Government to ensure access to citizens inflicted with disease of Coronavirus with life-saving means and drugs i.e., Oxygen & Remdesivir.
Referring to interpretation of Article 21 of the Constitution so as to expand the meaning of the right to health as fundamental right, a Bench of Chief Justice Mohammad Rafiq and Justice Atul Sreedharan, stated that core obligation of the State in securing the right to life to all its citizens would be non-negotiable.
“Article 21 of the Constitution of India in this regard clearly casts a duty on the State to take whatever steps are necessary in securing such rights to access to health facilities to the citizens” the Bench noted.
Importantly, the Court also remarked that: “Article 38, Article 39(e), Article 41 and Article 47 in Part-IV of the Constitution of India as well as the fundamental right guaranteed vide Article 21 of the Constitution of India deal with potent and substantive contents of the right to life which in its broad sweep also includes right to good health”.
Coronavirus, since not treated timely, had proved to be a deadly disease, especially for those citizens who suffer from different kind of morbidities and are elderly in age. This has had catastrophic effect on the citizens of the country. Health, besides being a fundamental right, was a basic human right, which no popular government could afford to negate and such health care should not only be accessible but also be conveniently affordable to all the citizens, the bench noted.
Court was hearing a suo motu writ petition which was registered on the basis of a letter sent by a doctor, which had highlighted a tragic and condemnable sight of an elderly Covid-19 patient, who was chained to a bed in a private hospital at Bhopal.
Although the Court had passed a number of orders to ensure that Covid-19 patients should be provided timely treatment and not subjected to harassment, the deaf ears were not turned.
The Court made it clear that although they were not experts in the field of Medicine but at the same time they were also cognizant of the fact that the State of Madhya Pradesh in past few days had faced a crisis like situation never seen before, where a lot of hue and cry by the people in different forms was being witnessed when their near and dear ones were infected with Coronavirus and some of them lost their life.
Taking cognizance of the newspaper reports citing incidents where either the patients were allegedly not being admitted or were being allegedly exploited by exorbitant charges by the private hospitals, as well as Remdesivir injection being sold in black-market, the High Court said that even if such information was half true, the situation is very grim and a torture with emotions of those who had gone through such agony.
The Bench observed that ordinarily these matters lie in the domain of the Executive, who had the responsibility to resolve all the identified problematic issues. However, despite being cognizant of its jurisdictional limitations, this Court, in an extraordinary situation like the present one, when they were brought to its notice, could not just play a silent spectator.
The Bench also said that they had play the role of a catalyst by reminding the State of its duties, for reassuring the people to continue to have faith in the system so as to revive their confidence.
The Bench therefore passed slew of directions to the State Government:
1. To ensure continuous and the regular supply of Oxygen and Remdesivir not only to all the Government Hospitals, City Hospitals, District Hospitals but also to the Private Hospitals/Nursing Homes, which may give Indent of their requirement of Oxygen as well as Remdesivir in advance;
2. To consider immediate reactivation of Covid Care Centres & strengthen all the District and City Hospitals, which generally cater to the medical needs of middle class/lower middle class and poor/below poverty line families, by providing the necessary equipment and the required quantity of Oxygen, Remdesivir injections;
3. To normalize and control the rates for being charged by the private Hospitals/Nursing Homes and private Pathological Labs/ Diagnostic Centres for treatment/tests;
4. To ensure displaying of data with regard to the availability of normal beds, ICU beds, and Ventilators on its Sarthak portal;
5. To ensure that RT-PCR and Rapid Antigen Tests shall be conducted by the Government Laboratories as well as duly approved private Pathological Labs/Diagnostic Centres;
6. To consider increasing per day testing number of Covid infected persons for their early detection so as to prevent further spread of Coronavirus.
Lastly, noting that this being a national calamity and a country-wide problem, the Court observed that the Central Government should consider stepping in to arrange the Oxygen firstly, by diverting the available stock of Liquid Medical Oxygen from the Steel Plants and other industries located in different parts of the country and secondly, if that is not sufficient, by importing the Oxygen.
Case Title: IN REFERENCE (SUO MOTU) Vs UNION OF INDIA AND OTHERS W.P No. 8914/2020