Affordable healthcare is a fundamental right, the Supreme Court said on Friday, in a significant observation that also held the state responsible for ensuring the right and noted that the fight against COVID-19 was a "world war".
"Right to health is a fundamental right guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Right to Health includes affordable treatment. Therefore, it is the duty upon the State to make provisions for affordable treatment," the court said.
A three-judge bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy and MR Shah had taken up the issue of healthcare during the time of the pandemic on its own and also looked at instances where bodies of coronavirus casualties were not handled with dignity.
"Due to unprecedented pandemic, everybody in the world is suffering, one way or the other. It is a world war against COVID-19. Therefore, there shall be Government Public Partnership to avoid world war against COVID-19," the judges said.
"Either more and more provisions are to be made by the state government and the local administration or there shall be cap on the fees charged by the private hospitals which can be in exercise of the powers under the Disaster Management Act," they added.
"It cannot be disputed that for whatever reasons the treatment has become costlier and costlier and it is not affordable to the common people at all. Even if one survives from COVID-19, many times financially and economically he is finished," they said.
The court called for increased coronavirus testing and stressed on the need to declare correct data. "One must be transparent in number of testing and declaring the facts and figures of the persons who are Corona positive. Otherwise, the people will be misled and they will be under impression that everything is all right and they will become negligent," the judges said.
They also asked the government to step up fire safety measures in hospitals, issue guidelines for giving relief to doctors engaged in Covid duty and ensure political meetings follow Covid rules.