On 8 April 2020, a PIL was filed by Shashank Deo Sudhi, who challenged the Government’s decision to fix the cost of the COVID-19 testing in private labs as ₹ 4500. In the light of this PIL, the Hon’ble Supreme Court directed all the governmental and private laboratories to conduct the COVID-19 test free of cost. But, on 13 April 2020, the hob’le Apex Court has modified its own order while adjudicating a petition filed by Dr. Kaushal Kant, who alleged that providing tests for free of cost will impact the functioning of private labs.
The bench clarified by it’s modified order that the free test will be available to the people eligible for Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Aarogya Yojana and any other sect belonging to the economically weak background.
The bench comprised of Justices Ashok Bhushan and S Ravindra Bhat. The Court allowed the Union Government to include any other categories of a weaker section to this beneficial scheme. In the hearing, Senior Advocate, Mukul Rohatgi, appearing on behalf of several laboratories, said that ICMR had fixed ₹4,500 as the price of a COVID-19 test, which is on the “moderate side” and it would be impossible for the private labs to carry on free testing due to financial constraints. He further submitted that the kits used in the test are imported and expensive and moreover, under the Ayushman Bharat Yojana scheme, approximately 50 crore beneficiaries are covered and they can avail the benefit of free COVID-19 testing even in the private labs.
While, Solicitor- General, Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, said the State has very “limited resources” and cannot tackle alone with the issue. He continued by saying, the fight against COVID-19 may go on for months.
In the light of the submission submitted, the Supreme Court orders that the private labs are free to charge a fee of ₹ 4,500 from people who can afford for COVID-19 testing, as prescribed by Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) and the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare may issue guidelines to reimburse private labs for expenses they incur while testing of COVID-19 for free of cost.