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regular-article-logo Wednesday, 24 July 2024

SC directs Centre to call meeting of states and firm up master plan for affordable healthcare services

The apex court said that if the Centre failed to take necessary steps, the court would pass appropriate orders

R. Balaji New Delhi Published 01.03.24, 05:41 AM
Supreme Court of India

Supreme Court of India File image

The Supreme Court has directed the Centre to discuss with states and come out with a concrete plan for uniform and affordable healthcare services for citizens that will be on a par with the rates fixed by empanelled hospitals under the Central Government Health Services (CGHS).

The apex court said that if the Centre failed to take necessary steps, the court would pass appropriate orders.

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A bench of Justices B.R. Gavai and Sandeep Mehta rejected the plea of the Centre that though it had held consultations with the states, cooperation had not been forthcoming.

“The Union of India cannot shirk away from its responsibility by merely stating that communication has been addressed to the state governments/Union Territories and they are not responding,” Justice Gavai told the counsel appearing for the Centre on Tuesday.

The court gave the ultimatum to the Centre on a PIL filed by the NGO Veterans Forum for Transparency in Public Life through its general secretary, Wing Commander Biswanath Prasad Singh, and posted the matter for further hearing on April 6.

The NGO had complained that medical treatment across the country had become highly expensive and beyond the reach of the common man because of steep charges levied by private hospitals. It has pleaded that there should be a uniform rate for all medical treatments on par with the rates fixed by the Union government for CGHS-empanelled hospitals.

The petitioner has cited the instance of a cataract surgery, which may cost only Rs 10,000 in CGHS hospitals but goes up to Rs 30,000-Rs 1.40 lakh in private hospitals.

The apex court passed the following written order: “…This Court in the matter of Paschim Bangal Khet Mazdoor Samity v. State of West Bengal…and in the matter of Pt. Parmanand Katara, Advocate v. Union of India and Another, (1995)… has held that it is the duty of the State to provide medical assistance to the citizens. The Act of 2010 has been enacted with an avowed object of providing medical facilities to the citizens at an affordable price....

“Nowadays, physical meetings are also not necessary, it can be arranged through virtual mode. We, therefore, direct the Secretary, Department of Health, Union of India to hold a meeting with his counterparts in the State Governments/Union Territories and come with a concrete proposal by the next date of hearing.”

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