The Delhi High Court on Thursday directed Aam Aadmi Party government to place on record its latest decision on “de-escalation” of reservation of Intensive Care Units (ICU) beds for COVID-19 patients in 33 private hospitals while deferring any order in relation to the same [Association of Healthcare Providers (India) vs GNCTD].
A single-judge Bench of Justice Navin Chawla nonetheless remarked that the continuation of reservation in ICU beds was “inhumane” considering the improved situation of COVID-19.
“My view is that there is no need for a reservation,” Justice Chawla added.
The Court was hearing a petition preferred by Association of Healthcare Providers (India) [petitioner] challenging the September 12 order passed by the Delhi government on the mandatory reservation of 80% ICU beds for COVID-19 patients in 33 private hospitals.
The Delhi government order was stayed by the court on September 22.
However, as the situation of COVID-19 worsened in the national capital, the stay order was vacated by the Division Bench of the High Court.
Appearing for the petitioner, Senior Advocate Maninder Singh argued that since the number of positive cases and the positivity rate had come down, there was no need for continuation of the order.
He added that even on the day when the original order was issued, no relevant data was considered to arrive at the decision.
Calling it absolute authoritarianism, Singh remarked,
“Absolutely malafide in decision making. It is not that you are paying me any charge for keeping ICU bed empty. Completely destructive of Article 14, 21 and 19. It is inhumane reservation. There can’t be a bifurcation that life of COVID patient is more important than non-COVID patient.”
Appearing for the Delhi government, Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain informed that Court that on December 23, a panel comprising three doctors had suggested taking down the reservation from 80% to 60% and a decision of the Executive was awaited.
Claiming that all the arguments were in anticipation, Jain said,
“The Executive decision based on the recommendation is yet to be takes. This number of 60% is not sacrosanct. This number may be lessor.”
He further assured the Court that the submissions made by the petitioner would be placed before the meeting of the authorities on December 26.
“Now de-escalation is recommended.. even in State Disaster Management Authority meeting, de-escalation was discussed.“, he said.
Jain nonetheless added that the issue of the new COVID strain from United Kingdom was a cause of worry.
“This mutated strain is causing worry all over the world. People with mutated strain have already come to India. There is new strain from South Africa.“, he said.
To await the decision of the Executive, orders on the issue were deferred by the Court.
“The note provided by the petitioner would be an important material to be considered by the Delhi government at the time of taking the decision,” the court recorded in the order.
The Court’s suggestion that the Delhi government authorities hear the petitioners before arriving at any decision was turned down by the petitioner himself.
The matter would be heard next on December 28.