Taking note of the ill-treatment that people are encountering in other states, the Supreme Court has warned the Centre and States that no patient should be denied hospitalization or essential drugs in any State or Union Territory for lack of local residential or identity proof.
A three-member apex court bench, comprising Justice D Y Chandrachud, Justice L Nageswara Rao and Justice Ravindra Bhat has directed the Centre government to formulate a national policy on admissions to hospitals, within two weeks, which shall be followed by all state governments and till then no patients will be denied admission or essential drugs in absence of local residential or identity proof.
“Left to their own devices, citizens have had to suffer immeasurable hardship. Different states and local authorities follow their own protocols. Differing standards for admission in different hospitals across the nation leads to chaos and uncertainty. The situation cannot brook any delay,” the bench said.
The top court further added, “Accordingly, we direct the Central Government to frame a policy in this regard, in the exercise of its statutory powers under the Disaster Management Act, which will be followed nationally. The presence of such a policy shall ensure that no one in need is turned away from a hospital, due to no fault of their own.”
Supreme Court suggested that the Centre government should collaborate with the State governments in order to create a buffer stock of oxygen to ensure supply lines continue to function even in unforeseen circumstances and decentralise the location of the emergency stocks.
The order further read, “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.”
The bench also noted that in the struggle to shift the responsibility of supplying/off-taking of Oxygen, lives of citizens cannot be put in jeopardy.
“The protection of the lives of citizens is paramount in times of a national crisis and the responsibility falls on both the Central Government and the Delhi government to cooperate with each other to ensure that all possible measures are taken to resolve the situation,” the order said.
The apex court also ordered, “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.”
The matter has now been posted for hearing on May 10.
The directions were issued by the Supreme Court in connection to the suo moto case for ensuring essential supplies and services during the COVID-19 pandemic. The order came late Sunday evening.