"The operation of the order dated February 2 (by which the Centre sought to insert a term asking it to give free treatment to the poor) is stayed," Justice Manmohan Singh said.

The Delhi High Court on Monday stayed the Centre’s order to incorporate a fresh condition into the 42-year-old lease deed of St. Stephen’s Hospital Society for free treatment of the poor by it.

The Court also asked the Union Ministry of Urban Development and the Delhi Government to file their replies to the St. Stephen’s Hospital Society’s plea against the Centre’s move within six weeks. The matter has been fixed for further hearing on September 19.

St. Stephen’s Hospital, a minority institution which got the land from the Centre by way of a perpetual lease deed in 1970, had moved the Court against the executive order by which a condition was sought to be inserted in its lease deed for free treatment to the poor.

Unlike other private hospitals, which also got the land from the Government, the lease deed, executed between St. Stephen’s and the Centre, does not have a clause making it mandatory for the missionary hospital to give free treatment to poor, hospital counsel Rajeev Sharma said.

“The said unilateral amendment of the perpetual lease deed executed in terms of the Article 299 of the Constitution by way of an executive order is ex-facie without jurisdiction, arbitrary, illegal and violative of constitutional schemes.”

“The society is a more than 127-year-old missionary hospital... Without there being any legal obligation to do so, the petitioner (the hospital) having regard to its missionary objectives has voluntarily been providing free care to a large number of patients, the free care being provided to more than 30 per cent to out-patients and 12 to 17 per cent in-patients and the value of such care being in the region of Rs. 30 crore,” the petition said.

The Centre’s decision came following the judgment of the High Court which had earlier asked around 20 private hospitals here to give free treatment to poor as their lease deeds contained a provision to that effect.

St. Stephen’s Hospital, however, was not a party to that litigation and its lease deed also did not have the said clause, the petition said.

“The judgment is not applicable to the St. Stephen’s Hospital since it concerns allotment covered by Nazul Rules framed under the DDA Act. No land has been allotted to the petitioner by the DDA,” the petition said.

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