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New Delhi April 8, 2020
The Supreme Court on Wednesday suggested private labs should not charge exorbitantly for COVID-19 tests, and asked the Centre to explore a mechanism wherein the amount spent on these tests could be reimbursed.
The observation from the apex court came on a petition that sought its direction to ensure free COVID-19 testing for all citizens -- both in government and private labs.
A bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan observed, amid the ongoing public health crisis due to the coronavirus pandemic, that the private laboratories should not charge heavily for such tests.
After the court asked the Centre, represented by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, to consider developing a reimbursement mechanism, Mehta said that he will take instructions from the government on this matter.
During the hearing through videoconferencing, Mehta contended that 118 labs in India have a total capacity of conducting 15,000 tests per day, and 47 private labs too had been been roped in.
When Justice Bhushan insisted on not allowing labs to charge money for coronavirus tests, Mehta said it was a developing situation for the labs and thus difficult to ascertain how many more were required. Also to be condered was the duration this lockdown would continue.
The petition filed by advocate Shashank Deo Sudhi challenged the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) advisory to fix maximum Rs 4,500 for coronavirus test by private entities.
The petition also sought direction that all such tests be conducted by accredited pathological laboratories, and to strike down the ICMR advisory for allegedly being violative of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution.
Suggesting free tests, the petitioner also claimed that capping test charges at private labs violates the ideals and values of the Constitution.