The Supreme Court on Monday modified its April 8 order to clarify that free testing for COVID-19 shall continue to be made available to the poor eligible under the Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana.
Free testing would also be made available to any other category of economically weaker sections of society as notified by the government from time to time, the court said.
Private labs would continue to charge the Indian Council of Medical Research rates of up to ₹4,500 for tests from people who can afford to pay.
A Bench led by Justice Ashok Bhushan recorded in its 10-page order that the court’s intention was never to make testing free for all.
“We make it clear that the benefit of free testing by a person can be availed only when he or she is covered under any scheme like the Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana. We are also of the view that looking into the plight of persons belonging to economically weaker sections of the society, the government may consider as to whether any other categories of persons belonging to economically weaker sections of society can be extended the benefit of free testing of COVID-19. We are conscious that framing of the scheme and its implementation are in the government domain, who are the best experts in such matter,” the court said in its order.
The court further directed the Health Ministry to identify beneficiaries among the weaker sections of society, including workers belonging to low income groups in the informal sectors and beneficiaries of Direct Benefit Transfer who can be made eligible for free testing. It directed the Ministry to issue appropriate guidelines in this regard within a week.