A Special Bench of the Supreme Court on Tuesday declined the Delhi government’s appeal to lift a High Court stay of its directive to private hospitals to reserve 80% of their Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds for COVID-19 patients.
A Bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and B.R. Gavai asked the Delhi government to approach the Delhi High Court, where the case is scheduled for hearing by November-end. The top court asked the High Court to take up the case on November 12 as it concerned an urgent public health issue.
The Bench sat exclusively for hearing the government’s appeal. The court is closed for Deepavali vacations.
Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain, for the government, said the festival would see crowds. The national capital would require several thousands more beds to meet the health contingency.
Justice Bhushan said it would be better to place the facts before the High Court itself while agreeing that cases were on the rise in Delhi.
The government argued that it had only instructed 33 hospitals to reserve 80% ICU/HDU beds for COVID-19 patients owing to the rising graph of infections.
“As a result of this proactive intervention, almost 500 patients were able to secure admission in ICU beds of these private nursing homes and hospitals. The rate chargeable for these beds has also been capped by the government in the interest of the public,” the Delhi government petition, filed through advocate Chirag M. Shroff, has contended in the top court.
A single judge of the High Court on September 22 stayed the government order on a petition filed by Association of Healthcare Providers (India), which said the order would deprive non-COVID patients of urgent medical care.
A Division Bench of the High Court, instead of lifting the stay, merely adjourned the case too late November.
“The Division Bench has failed to take judicial notice of the COVID-19 pandemic and the steadily rising graph of infections. Delhi has always been the preferred location for seeking medical treatment by patients even from neighbouring and other States,” the government appeal said.
The government said the High Court failed to appreciate that the petition filed against the September 12 order was nothing but a cloaked attempt by certain hospital managements to guard their own financial interests.
The petition said out of the 33 hospitals listed, 28 were already functioning as “partial COVID hospitals”.
“Out of those 28 hospitals, 22 were allotted land by the government at concessional rates. Five out of 33 hospitals have already been operating as COVID-19 hospitals. Four out of five hospitals have also been allotted land at concessional rates,” the petition contended.