42-year old educationist and social worker Sagar Jondhale sought directions to the State to provide free treatment to all COVID-19 patients. In his petition, he asked the Maharashtra government to take care of the medical expenses of the infected. The High Court dismissed the petition on June 16th.
The social worker sought free treatment for virus-contracted patients in private hospitals. He challenged a notification released by the Department of Public Health and called for it to be quashed. The petition to the Bombay HC claimed that it was a necessity at such a difficult time.
Arguments Raised by The Petitioner
Advocate Anand Jondhale appeared for the petitioner. He put forth precedents on the maintainability of the PIL. He alleged that the government failed to live up to the expectations of the people. The submissions showed the plight of poor people and their inability to afford treatment. Anand claimed that the State must take up the responsibility to provide free treatment.
Court’s Observations on the Notification
The bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice KK Tated heard the case. They held that money would be used to improve the plight of poor people. The notification issued on May 21st specified its applicability for people who do not have medical insurance. It asked for the increase in bed capacity to accommodate a higher number of patients. According to the order, the State would regulate 80% of the beds under prescribed rates. Nevertheless, healthcare providers can charge for the 20% not covered under the notification.
The Court concluded that the citizens have the liberty to decide where to receive treatment. The order does not discriminate between the rich and the poor on the 80% reserved beds. The Court ruled out the possibility of free treatment. They further ruled that no person faced discrimination. The Court called out the petitioner for the frivolous PIL, as there was no infringement of a fundamental right.
The Court dismissed the petition and levied a cost of Rs.5,00,000 on the petitioner. The money paid by the petitioner would be used to aid the plight of people. The State is at liberty to recover the amount from the arrears of his land if he fails to pay it in one month.
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