Plea in SC seeks uniform RT-PCR test cost
A plea in the Supreme Court, filed on Saturday, sought a direction to the Centre to make sure refunds are paid for ‘exorbitant’ amounts charged by hospitals and private labs to conduct Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) tests in detecting Covid-19.
Filed by lawyer and BJP leader Ajay Agrawal on his pending PIL, the interim plea seeks to fix a uniform rate of Rs 400 for the testing countrywide, as has been done by Odisha.
A bench of Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, on November 24, had issued notice to the Union Health Ministry on Agrawal's PIL and had sought its response within two weeks.
The fresh plea said that when hospitals and laboratories were charging Rs 4,500 for the test, the actual cost, including that of the testing kit, was between Rs 800 to Rs 1,200, and even now, "exorbitant rates" are being charged in various states when the total cost incurred is about Rs 200 only.
“This exorbitant over and above amount charged from poor and innocent people of this country needs to be refunded immediately as it is not only unrealistic and unreasonable but shocking,” the plea said.
“"In a country like India where crores of people are living Below Poverty Line and the country's GDP has gone down to minus 23.9 per cent (-23.09 per cent) during the lockdown period, and therefore, this overcharged amount be refunded to the affected people forthwith,” it added.
“The exorbitant money taken from the people is nothing but extortion and the responsible persons be punished and the excess amount be refunded at the earliest,” the plea further said.
The plea cited the example of Odisha, saying that the state had fixed the rate after analysing and examining all aspects.
“For the last several months these private labs and hospitals were looting the poor people of this country. Like in Delhi the notification was issued on 18.6.2020 fixing the maximum rate Rs 2400 and the cost of the kit and other things used in the test has gone down in the month of April-May itself, at the rate which is available at present,” Agarwal said in the application.
While issuing the notice, the top court had said that the PIL would be heard with another pending plea of Sachin Jain pertaining to the cost of treatment for Covid-19.
“There is no other cost as the machines used for the RT-PCR test are already there with the laboratories as they conduct a large number of tests. And the matter is concerned with 135 crore citizen of the country as everybody is worried about the coronavirus and forced to get their test done at this exorbitant price,” the PIL noted.
It alleged that the owners of the private laboratories and hospitals are using the calamity into opportunities for minting crores and crores of rupees.