October 13, 2021

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No COVID Patient Should Be Denied Hospital Admission For Lack of Local Address Proof: Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has directed that no patient shall be denied hospitalization or essential drugs in any State/UT for lack of local residential proof of that State/UT or even in the absence of identity proof.

The Court has directed the Central Government to frame a uniform national policy on hospital admissions within 2 weeks, which should be followed by all hospitals.

“The Central Government shall, within two weeks, formulate a national policy on admissions to hospitals which shall be followed by all State Governments. Till the formulation of such a policy by the Central Government, no patient shall be denied hospitalization or essential drugs in any State/UT for lack of local residential proof of that State/UT or even in the absence of identity proof”, the Court ordered.

The Court also ordered the Central Government to rectify the deficit in liquid medical oxygen supply for the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi on or before the midnight of May 3.

“The UOI shall ensure, in terms of the assurance of the Solicitor General, that the deficit in the supply of oxygen to the GNCTD is rectified within 2 days from the date of the hearing, that is, on or before the midnight of 3 May 2021”, directed the Supreme Court.

The order was passed by a bench comprising Justices DY Chandrachud, L Nageswara Rao and S Ravindra Bhat in the suo moto case In Re Distribution of Essential Services and Supplies during Pandemic.

The order, which was reserved after a daylong hearing on April 30, was released on Sunday night.

The other significant directions in the order are:

Prepare buffer stock for oxygen

The Central Government shall, in collaboration with the States, prepare a buffer stock of oxygen for emergency purposes and decentralize the location of the emergency stocks. The emergency stocks shall be created within the next four days and is to be replenished on a day to day basis, in addition to the existing allocation of oxygen supply to the States;

No clampdown on social media SOS calls for COVID help

The Central Government and State Governments shall notify all Chief Secretaries/Directors General of Police/Commissioners of Police that any clampdown on information on social media or harassment caused to individuals seeking/delivering help on any platform will attract a coercive exercise of jurisdiction by this Court. The Registrar (Judicial) is also directed to place a copy of this order before all District Magistrates in the country.

National policy on hospital admissions

The Central Government shall, within two weeks, formulate a national policy on admissions to hospitals which shall be followed by all State Governments. Till the formulation of such a policy by the Central Government, no patient shall be denied hospitalization or essential drugs in any State/UT for lack of local residential proof of that State/UT or even in the absence of identity proof;

Revisit vaccine protocols

The Central Government shall revisit its initiatives and protocols, including on the availability of oxygen, availability and pricing of vaccines, availability of essential drugs at affordable prices in the light of the concerns raised by the bench.

During the hearing, the Court had posed queries to the bench regarding compulsory licensing of COVID vaccines and drugs and also the rationale behind COVID vaccination policy allowing differential pricing for centre and states.

Vaccine policy prima facie violates Article 21

The Court observed that the manner in which the Centre’s current Vaccine policy has been framed would prima facie result in a detriment to the right to public health which is an integral element of Article 21 of the Constitution.

“The manner in which the Centre’s current Vaccine policy has been framed would prima facie result in a detriment to the right to public health which is an integral element of Article 21 of the Constitution.

We believe that the Central Government should consider revisiting its current vaccine policy to ensure that it withstands the scrutiny of Articles 14 and Article 21 of the Constitution”

The matter will be next considered on May 10.

Case Details

Title : In Re Distribution of Essential Supplies and Services During Pandemic, Suo Moto Writ Petition(Civil) No. 3/2021

Coram : Justices DY Chandrachud, L Nageswara Rao and S Ravindra Bhat

Citation : LL 2021 SC 236

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