Supreme Court modified its April 8 order which asked private labs to conduct free Covid-19 tests and said the benefit will be available only to “economically weaker sections” who are covered under a government scheme such as the Ayushman Bharat.
The top court said it never intended to make testing free for those who can afford to pay.
It had on April 8 directed that private labs, which were allowed to charge Rs 4,500 for Covid-19 tests, would not charge for the tests observing that they need to be philanthropic in the hour of national crisis.
A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and S Ravindra Bhat took note of the pleas of two persons, including orthopedic surgeon Kaushal Kant Mishra, who said that if the testing is made free for all, private labs will be overburdened financially and would slow down the tests for the novel coronavirus or Covid-19.
“Having heard, counsel for the parties, we are satisfied that sufficient cause has been made out to clarify and modify our order dated April 8, 2020,” the top court said.
It added: “The order dated April 8, intended to make testing in private Labs of Covid-19 free for economically weaker sections of the society who were unable to afford the payment of testing fee as fixed by ICMR for Covid-19.
“We further clarify that the order never intended to make testing free for those who can afford the payment of testing fee fixed by the ICMR for Covid-19”.
The top court took note of the submissions of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi that according to the directive of National Health Authority under the Ayushman Bharat Yojana, the Covid-19 tests were being conducted free of cost in all private laboratories even when the order was passed on April 8.
“We make it clear that the benefit of free testing by a person can be availed only when he or she is covered under any scheme like Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Aarogya Yojana. We are also of the view that looking to the plight of persons belonging to economically weaker sections of the society, the Government may consider as to whether any other categories of persons belonging to economically weaker sections of the society can be extended benefit of free testing of Covid-19,” it said…Read more>>