NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court Monday termed as "misconceived" a plea seeking direction to the Centre, states and Union Territories to nationalise all healthcare facilities and related entities till COVID-19 pandemic is contained in the country.
A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and S Ravindra Bhat, which heard the matter through video-conference, said such a direction cannot be passed by the court.
"The first prayer, according to us, is misconceived. No such court direction can be issued as prayed for. The writ petition stands dismissed for prayer 1," the bench said in its order Regarding the second prayer made in the plea seeking direction to provide free of cost tests and treatment for coronavirus, the bench said it has already entertained another petition in which "some common issues are involved".
The apex court directed that the petition be tagged with the already pending matter.
During the hearing, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta opposed the plea filed by a Delhi-based lawyer and said that government has taken appropriate steps to provide adequate health facilities to all the citizens.
"It is not a decision the court can ask the government to take. We cannot order nationalisation of hospitals. Government has already taken over some hospitals," the bench said, adding that the government is taking steps in this regard.
The plea has claimed that public health sector in India has remained in "shambles due to low budgetary allowances" but at the same time, private healthcare sector has seen "tremendous growth".
"India does not have sufficient public health care infrastructure to combat a pandemic like COVID-19 and as a last resort India needs to take help of private health care sector," the plea said.
It said that globally healthcare facilities have been nationalised till the containment of COVID-19.
"In this dire situation, it becomes the primary duty of Indian state to take control, temporarily nationalise, of all these private health care institutes and make them available at the service of common Indian, free of the cost, in order to contain the spread of deadly pandemic COVID-19 and provide the quality treatment and care," the plea said.
It claimed that in the 2020-21 Budget, India chose to spend only 1.6 per cent, that is Rs 67,489 crore, of its total estimated budget expenditure on public health "which is not only very low in comparison to the average global public health expenditure but is miniscule even in comparison to the expenditure of low income countries".