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Covid-19: Bombay HC fines man ₹5 lakh for seeking free ‘coronavirus’ treatment for all

The Bombay High Court imposed a fine of Rs. 5 lakh on an educationist who had sought free Covid-19 treatment at all hospitals, across Maharashtra. The petitioner had also sought setting aside the Maharashtra government’s decision of taking over 80 percent beds in private hospitals.

A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice K K Tated, said the demand was “preposterous” and directed the petitioner to deposit the amount with the state government within a month. 

Educationist and social worker Sagar Jondhale, through advocate Anand Jondhale, said the private hospitals would “charge exorbitantly” and even if a Covid-19 patient is admitted to the general ward, the bill will amount to nearly 1 lakh rupees. It also stated that the notification had wrongly permitted private hospitals to charge separately for pharmacy and pathology services.

“Even if minimum rates are charged as per the notification, (the hospital) bill would not be less than Rs 1 lakh to Rs 75,000 for a general ward. Taking advantage of the situation, the private Hospitals will charge exorbitantly and the general hospitals will behave no differently. And, therefore, poor citizens of the state will not be able to avail treatment,” Jondhale had argued.

Seeking to declare the May 21 notification null and void, the petitioner sought a direction to the state government to provide free-of-cost Covid-19 treatment to all citizens in all hospitals, including private institutions, except to those who are covered by insurance schemes. The plea also sought from the state to monitor the implementation of the guidelines issued to hospitals across Maharashtra.

Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni and Government Pleader Poornima H Kantharia opposed the plea.

After hearing submissions, the bench led by CJ Datta said that the demand was ‘preposterous’ and that the May 21 notification was ‘proper.’ The HC also sought to know from advocate Varsha Jagdale whether she wanted to withdraw a plea filed by Kurla Resident Sarika Singh, who claimed that private hospitals are not admitting Covid-19 patients and charging exorbitant fee from patients by taking advantage of the Lockdown. Asking Singh’s lawyer to respond, the bench posted further hearing on her plea on Friday, June 19.

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