Shri Harsh Vardhan
Hon’ble Minister of Health and Family Welfare
Government of India
New Delhi: 110001
Subject: Request for enacting a national legislation to mandate private hospitals on public lands allotted at concessional rates to provide free treatment to EWS patients
Through this letter, I wish to draw your attention to a vital issue concerning the right of poor patients to free treatment in various identified private hospitals in Delhi. The Hon’ble High Court of Delhi in its judgment dated 22.03.2007 in a PIL titled Social Jurist vs.GNCT, Delhi [W.P. (C) No.2866/2002] had held that all the 20 hospitals involved in the writ petition which had been allotted lands at concessional rates and all other identically situated hospitals shall treat 25% OPD and 10% IPD patients belonging to economically weaker section of the society completely free of charge in all respects (Emphasis supplied). This High Court Order was upheld by the Hon’ble Supreme Court vide its Order dated 01.09.2011 in SLP(C) No.18599 of 2007.
In terms of the said judgment, 49 private hospitals in Delhi had been identified and directed to provide free treatment to 10% IPD and 25% OPD patients belonging to EWS category by the Government of NCT of Delhi. Out of these, four hospitals, Mool Chand Hospital, St. Stephen’s Hospital, Sitaram Bhartiya Institute of Science and Research and Rockland Hospital, Qutub Institutional Area (Foundation for Applied Research in Cancer) preferred writ petitions in the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi, which have been decided vide the common judgment dated 28.04.2014 in Moolchand Khairati Ram Trust vs. Union of India and ors. [W.P. (C) No. 1478/2012] and connected petitions [W.P. (C) No. 3737/2012, W.P(C) NO. 3792/2013 and W.P (C)No. 7183/2013], whereby the Hon’ble High Court has exempted the said hospitals from providing free treatment to EWS patients on the alleged ground that the lease-deeds of these hospitals did not contain any condition for providing free treatment to EWS patients, despite the fact that land was allotted to these Hospitals by government agencies at concessional rates.
It is submitted that by virtue of the said judgment, the hospitals which have taken public land at throw-away prices have been unreasonably benefited, whereas the poor people of the country have been hit hard. Further, it is apprehended that following the reasoning in the said judgment, apart from these four hospitals, nearly fifteen more hospitals may stop providing free treatment to EWS patients. If so happens, poor patients will lose over three hundred free beds and free OPD facilities in these hospitals. It is submitted that following the said judgment, B.L. Kapoor Hospital, which had earlier been treating EWS patients free of cost has completely stopped all kinds of free treatment to EWS patients, including continuation of treatment of admitted in-patients, admission of new patients, OPD facilities and dialysis to its existing patients.
The Hon’ble High Court has, however, held that the state action of imposing the condition of free treatment upon these hospitals in public interest would have been valid if the same was done through a legislation or had legislative backing. Attention is invited to para 63 of the judgment in this regard:
“Thus, this Court only seeks to emphasise that while any endeavour to bring the
Directive Principles to fruition is laudable, such effort must be by way of legislation, especially when rights guaranteed under Part III are likely to be infringed through such effort. Examples of such legislations in pursuance of Directive Principles are the Right to Education Act, The Essential Commodities Act, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act and the National Food Security Act etc.
Whilst the State’s effort to maximise access to public health systems at no cost or minimum cost is undeniably in the public interest, such objective has to be achieved within the framework of the Constitution, through the route of legislation. In the present case, the route taken by the respondent does not accord with Constitution.”
It is therefore requested and urged that a legislation be enacted to legally obligate these hospitals to provide completely free treatment in all respects to a minimum 25% OPD and 10% IPD patients belonging to EWS category. Further, such legislation should also address those private hospitals on public lands across the country, which have been enjoying the public legacy without any corresponding obligations to provide any free treatment and obligate them to provide free treatment on similar lines.
Ashok Agarwal, Advocate
Advisor, Social Jurist
Member, Delhi High Court-appointed EWS Monitoring Committee