The Bombay High Court has asked the Maharashtra government if it has a regulatory mechanism in place to ensure that private hospitals and nursing homes in the state don't overcharge for PPE kits and other ancillary items during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Revati Mohite Dere observed while the state government has issued guidelines putting a cap on charges that hospitals can levy on patients, there is no mechanism in place to ensure that hospitals follow them.
"We think the state government has not paid attention to the aspect of having a mechanism in place to keep a check on hospitals overcharging. How does the State propose to regulate? With no mechanism in place, the government is giving these hospitals unbridled power to fix prices," Chief Justice Datta said.
The court directed the state government to file an affidavit stating if there is any mechanism in place to ensure that private hospitals and nursing homes follow the state government's guidelines.
"How do you (the government) deal with violators? How do you ensure that the guidelines are followed by all hospitals?" Chief Justice Datta asked.
Assistant government pleader Nisha Mehra told the court that as per a resolution issued on August 7, flying squads have been set up to carry out surprise checks on hospitals.
The court directed Ms Mehra to also state in the affidavit how many such checks have been conducted from the time these squads were set up till September 21, when the matter will be heard next.
The bench was hearing a public interest litigation filed by advocate Abhijeet Mangade, pointing out instances where private hospitals in Mumbai and neighbouring Thane district had overcharged patients for PPE kits and other ancillary items such as gloves, N95 masks and sanitisers.
Mr Mangade on Tuesday told the court that there is no mechanism in place and that flying squads were an eyewash.