Doctor Seeks Revision in SC Directions For Free COVID-19 Testing

Dr. Kaushal Kant has filed an intervention application in the PIL filed by Shashank Deo Sudhi seeking revisions in the order passed by the apex court in the said PIL. Deo’s PIL challenged the price set for COVID-19 testing in private laboratories by the ICMR Advisory. On April 8, 2020, a division bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and S Ravindra Bhat passed the order in the PIL issuing the following directions:

  1. Tests related to COVID-19 should be done free of cost in both government laboratories and approved private laboratories. The Government of India and ICMR had been directed to issue necessary directions in that regard.
  2. COVID-19 tests must be carried out in NABL accredited Labs or any agencies approved by WHO or ICMR.

Dr. Kant filed his application pressing on the issues relating to only the first part of the Supreme Court order. He warns the apex court of the inverse implications of forcing the private labs to conduct free COVID-19 tests. He explains that free tests would burden private labs and be a disincentive for them to continue testing for COVID-19, referring to a Thyrocare in Mumbai that has put a hold on testings until there is clarity on the finances. The application urges the Court to direct the private labs to conduct tests as per the ICMR advisory. However, the application urges the court to come up with EWS criteria to allow free tests for people who cannot afford them; while seeking immediate reimbursements from the government.

The application mentions that the coming week is make or break for India wherein the government plans to test more. Thereby, he focuses the court’s attention to the lack of COVID-19 testings in India; comparing the number of tests conducted with the population of the country. Thus, claiming that making all tests free would cause a sharp dip in the testing numbers which are already low. To increase the testings in India, the application also prays for pathogen labs to be set up in all municipalities and panchayats. The application is mentioned before the Registry for urgent listing.