June 20, 2024

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Regulation of path labs: HC pulls up Delhi health minister, health secretary over non-implementation of law | Delhi News

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While hearing a matter seeking regulation of pathological laboratories in the national capital, the Delhi High Court on Thursday expressed its displeasure with Delhi Health Minister Saurabh Bharadwaj and Health Secretary Dr S B Deepak Kumar over the non-implementation of the law concerning the issue.

A division bench of Acting Chief Justice Manmohan and Justice Manmeet Pritam Singh Arora orally told Bharadwaj and Kumar who were present for the hearing, “He (petitioner) is telling us that all sorts of reports are being generated by such labs which are not true and the common man is suffering”.

The bench orally took a strong exception to the “game of one-upmanship between the two of you (Bharadwaj and Kumar) various factions which is going on” and that it has no hesitation in sending them to jail if the common man benefits.

“You have to be practical. You have to ensure that touts do not benefit. If you are incapable of handling it we will pass an order saying both of you are incapable of handling it and will give it to a third party or we will pass a judicial order about what has to be done. Common man is not getting a fair report of his blood and he will take the wrong medicine. It will have serious consequences,” the court continued.

On May 30 last year, the High Court had directed the Delhi government to expedite the process of finalisation of the Delhi Health Bill. The Bill refers to the Delhi Health Establishments (Registration and Regulation) Bill, 2022. It had also directed the government to consider the feasibility of implementing the Clinical Establishment (Registration and Regulation) Act, 2010, in the intervening period of finalisation of the Bill if “the said process (it is) likely to take a long time”.

Festive offer

The bench further orally said, “We called you personally over here. Don’t indulge in a game of personal oneupmanship with the court. You both will go to jail. We will have no hesitation in sending you both to jail if the common man benefits from this. You both are servants of the government. You both have to ensure that the common man benefits. What are you doing?”

Minister Bharadwaj submitted before the bench that a committee for finalising the draft health bill had a meeting in May 2022 and it approved the draft Bill. Thereafter, the then health minister in July 2022 directed that the draft Bill be vetted by standing counsel civil Government of NCT of Delhi (GNCTD) for any suggestions and then be vetted by the Law Department.

After the standing counsel’s suggestions were incorporated and revised draft approved by him, it was vetted by the Law Department in August 2022 that advised the Administrative Department to examine the aspects so that the proposed Bill is not in derogation of any law made by Parliament or the Clinical Establishment Act 2010.

Thereafter, in September 2022 the Law Department provided two options to either process the matter for adopting the Clinical Establishment Act 2010 or continue processing of the Delhi Health Bill. He said that the then minister decided to go with the second option in January 2023.

The bench, however, after perusing the files in the matter said that some repugnancy was pointed out and it was stated that the Bill will have to be sent to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). It remarked that the Bill should have been sent considering that it was already 2024.

Bharadwaj, thereafter, submitted that there was a comparison done between the two laws wherein it was found that a lot of infrastructure would have to be created in the interim period wherein the Central law (2010 Act) talks of giving power to district magistrates who are “overloaded and they cannot go into registration of hospitals and nursing homes”. He said that the Bill suggested a commission at the state level headed by a retired high court judge.

He thereafter said the “draft Bill is already ready” and will have to go to the Centre for approval. To this the bench orally observed, “That will take some time, at least 7-8 months. In the interregnum we can’t wait. The people are suffering. You both will put together some arrangement in place when the Bill goes to the Centre”.

The bench, thereafter, directed, “The health minister and health secretary are present. The concerned papers and file have been shown to the court. They both pray for some time to examine the aspects highlighted during the hearing and they assure and undertake to this court that a proper fair and reasonable system of regulation of pathological laboratories is put in place at the earliest”.

The matter is next listed in April.


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