The Delhi High Court on Monday put on hold the investigation and all related proceedings against Sir Ganga Ram Hospital (SGRH) in connection with an FIR lodged against it for alleged violation of COVID-19 regulation norms.
Justice C Hari Shankar said he was "convinced" that "tested on principles of prima facie case, the balance of convenience and public interest" the investigation consequent to the lodging of FIR against the hospital "deserves to stay till final disposal of the petition". "All proceedings consequent to the registration of impugned FIR, including an investigation by police, shall remain stayed till final disposal of the petition," the court said in its order pronounced via video conferencing.
The interim order came on the hospital's application seeking a stay on proceedings in relation to the June 5 FIR lodged at the Rajinder Nagar police station under section 188 (disobedience to order duly enacted by public servant) of the IPC and the proceedings initiated thereafter.
The application was filed in the hospital's main petition, seeking quashing of the FIR, which is listed on August 11.
The court said the matter would be heard finally on August 11.
According to the FIR, the complainant is a senior official of the Delhi Health Department who has alleged that the hospital was not using the RT-PCR app while collecting COVID-19 samples.
It said that as per the guidelines, it is "mandatory" for labs to collect samples through the RT-PCR app.
The official has also alleged "violation" on part of the hospital in not adhering to COVID-19 regulation norms, as specified under the Epidemic Diseases Act 1897.
The hospital's petition has also sought to set aside the Delhi government's June 3 order, prohibiting RT/PCR sampling for COVID-19 suspect/contact cases with immediate effect.
RT/PCR, short for Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction, is a laboratory technique widely used in the diagnosis of genetic diseases and to measure gene expression in research.
SGRH, a private hospital with 675 beds, was declared a COVID-19 facility by the Delhi government and told to reserve 80 per cent beds for coronavirus patients.
Seeking to streamline the testing process, the Union Health Ministry launched a dedicated RT-PCR mobile-based app for labs to fill the data at the point of sample collection.
Following the directives, the Delhi government made it mandatory for all lab collection and testing centres to download that app.
The hospital, in its petition, has claimed that the FIR was vague and does not disclose commissioning of an offence under section 188 of IPC.
"A mere disobedience of the order is not good enough to make out an offence under section 188 of IPC but the resultant obstruction, annoyance or injury or risk of obstruction, annoyance or injury to any person or for that matter cause danger to human life, health or safety or causes or tends to cause a riot or affray which makes it an offence under Section 188 of IPC.
"The FIR being silent about any such effect, the same is liable to be quashed," it has said.
Three notices were issued by the Delhi government to the hospital and the entire exercise appears to be motivated and malicious to achieve some non-bona fide and ulterior objectives, it has contended.
The plea has said that on the one hand, the Delhi government in its notices said that samples of asymptomatic patients are being collected and processed for testing by the hospital, on the other hand, it says that app-based collection is not happening.
"Both the stands are self-contradictory in as much as the fact they know that samples of asymptomatic patients are being collected for further testing clearly shows that the respondents are fully aware of the data submitted by the petitioner," it has said.
It submitted that the Delhi government had declared the hospital as a dedicated COVID facility by earmarking 80 per cent beds for this purpose but passed an order prohibiting SGRH from carrying out any COVID test.