HC quashes notifications on rates for non-COVID-19 patients

The Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court recently quashed two notifications issued by the Maharashtra government to private hospitals and healthcare providers, and nursing homes on regulating rates for non-COVID-19 patients.

A Division Bench of Justices R.K. Deshpande and Pushpa Ganediwala was hearing a plea filed by the Hospitals Association, Nagpur, and Dr. Pradeep Arora, challenging the State notifications dated April 30 and May 21 which fixed a maximum chargeable rate for COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients.

The notifications said, “The hospitals and healthcare providers in the State shall not charge more than the rates prescribed in annexure A read with annexure B as per the location and bed strength. The rates prescribed in annexure A shall be applicable for non-COVID-19 patients. The rates in annexure C shall apply to COVID-19 patients or suspected positive patients referred by the competent authorities against regulated beds.”

The petitioners argued that there was no provision that empowered the State government to regulate the rates recoverable by the private hospitals for providing medical services to non-COVID-19 patients. The notifications in question were, therefore, beyond the competence of the State, they said.

The petitioners also contended that Parliament had enacted the Medical Council of India Act and the State legislature had enacted the Maharashtra Essential Service Maintenance (Amendment) Act, 2011, as also the Maharashtra Nursing Homes Registration Act. “All these enactments are in force, exhausting the power of Parliament as well as the State legislature to enact laws on the subjects concerned. The field is already occupied and, therefore, the State has no competence to issue the notifications in question concerning any of the items covered by the subjects,” they said.

The Bench said, “In our view, public health and sanitation; hospitals and dispensaries in the State List are neither an entry to regulate or control, the charges, fees or rates, nor it can be read to include the power to prescribe or regulate the charges, fees or rates. We, therefore, hold that the State legislature is not competent either to frame any law in that respect or to issue any notification regulating the rates chargeable by the private hospitals for non-COVID-19 patients.”

The court said, “The said notifications are an encroachment upon the fundamental rights of the petitioners under Article 19(1)(g) (to practise any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business) of the Indian Constitution.”

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Printable version | Dec 4, 2020 10:17:28 PM |

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