The Kerala High Court on Tuesday directed the State to file a statement listing out on what legal basis the state government decided to issue an order reducing the rates of RT-PCR testing in Kerala.
Cases pertaining to RTPCR tests were taken up before two benches of the Kerala High Court today.
A Division bench of Justice Devan Ramachandran and Justice Kauser Edappagath closed proceedings in a petition moved by Youth Congress Leaders Shafi Parambil and KS Sabarinathan against the exorbitatntly high rates of RTPCR tests in the state, while Justice N Nagaresh took up pleas filed by private diagnostic centers against the 'arbitrary lowering of the test rates without consulting the private labs.
Significantly, minutes after news of the Youth Congress Leaders' petition against the lowered price made rounds in media circles, the State Health Minister KK Shailaja announced that the rates of RTPCR tests for COVID-19 undertaken by private labs would be capped at Rs 500.
In light of the Health Minister's announcement, the Division Bench closed the PIL proceedings instituted by Parambil and Sabarinathan noting that nothing remained for decision.
While hearing the plea of the private laboratories, Justice Nagaresh asked the State on what basis it issued the order and orally expressed that the Court would interfere it was found that the order was not backed by law.
The Court asked the State to place a statement on record detailing the reasons that led to the State Government's decision.
The labs averred that they first heard of the cap on rates from social media and news flashes and had not received any prior intimation of the government's initiative. Additionally, even after the decision was taken, only soft copies of the orders circulated by government officials over WhatsApp reached the petitioners, the labs contended.
The petitioners challenge the decision as arbitrary and violative of principles of natural justice since they were not consulted. It is asserted that the new order goes against the order of the Supreme Court where labs were permitted to charge a rate prescribed by the Indian Council of Medical Research. Only rates of testing vis-à-vis patients under the Ayushman Bharat Scheme and others from weaker sections are presently constrained, it is stated. The petitioners also take the stance that their labs cater only for the few who can afford it or seek its services for its quality and reliability.