HC seeks State word on requisitioning pvt hospitals for Covid-19 treatment

Nagpur: The issue of requisitioning of private hospitals and reserving 80 per cent beds for COVID-19 patients with price-capping came under intense scrutiny of the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court.

The High Court directed the Maharashtra Government to clarify about the legal provisions under which private hospitals are being used as dedicated coronavirus disease (Covid-19) healthcare facilities. The Court prima-facie found no enabling provision in either Disaster Management Act or Epidemic Act empowering the authority to take over private hospitals and control cost of treatment.

A two-member division bench, comprising Justice Ravi Deshpande and Justice Pushpa Ganediwala, has also directed the state government to clarify if the latter is willing to appropriately compensate private hospitals following their requisition under Section 65 of the Disaster Management (DM) Act, 2005. The bench made the observation while hearing a petition filed by Viveka Super Speciality Hospital and Research Centre, a private healthcare facility, in Nagpur, challenging the validity of two notifications by the state government.

The two notifications issued on April 30 and May 21 are conspicuously silent on this crucial aspect. The High Court, while asking the State Government to come clean on this aspect, virtually put the authorities on notice. Only if the requisition was legal and proper, the price obligation and virtual taking over of private hospitals will follow; else, the existing arrangement is legally questionable, the High Court prima-facie noted. This interpretation will have a huge ramification for the private hospitals and people in general.

During the hearing of a suo motu PIL about inept handling of hospital beds management during COVID-19 pandemic, the High Court noted that no such power existed in both the notifications dated April 30 and May 21 issued as per the enabling provisions of Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897; Disaster Management Act, 2005; Maharashtra Essential Service Maintenance (Amendment) Act, 2011; Maharashtra Nursing Home (Amendment) Act, 2006; and Bombay Public Trust Act, 1950. “Except the provision of Section 2 of the Epidemic Diseases Act and Section 65 of the Disaster Management Act, we do not find any such provision under any of the Acts,” the High Court noted. If the notifications are issued under Section 2 of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 or Section 65 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, requisitioning the resources, services, premises and vehicles of the private hospitals declared as Dedicated Covid Hospitals in the State, then the consequences or obligations contained under Section 66 regarding payment of compensation may follow, the High Court observed.