The Delhi High Court on Wednesday vacated the stay order on the Aam Aadmi Party government’s directive to reserve 80% of intensive care unit beds in 33 hospitals in the Capital, Bar and Bench reported.
The High Court was hearing a plea filed by the Delhi government seeking permission to enforce reservation of 80% of intensive care unit, or ICU beds for Covid-19 patients in 33 private hospitals for at least 15 days. In September, a bench of Justice Navin Chawla had stayed the decision, saying it was prima facie “arbitrary, unreasonable and violative” of Article 21 of the Constitution that guarantees right to life and personal liberty.
The government then approached the Supreme Court, which on Tuesday declined to intervene. Instead, it asked the High Court to urgently take up the matter on November 12.
“In view of the present situation in Delhi, the spiralling [Covid-19] cases and the ground reality which is different from how it was when the stay order was passed, the stay order on reservation is vacated,” the High Court said during Thursday’s hearing.
The High Court also directed the Delhi government to file an additional affidavit and posted the matter for hearing before a single judge on November 26. During the hearing, the division bench of Justice Hima Kohli and Justice Subramonium Prasad asked the Delhi government why it has specifically chosen 33 private hospitals and not the remaining ones for reserving the beds for Covid-19 patients.
Additional Solicitor General Sanjay, representing the Delhi government, said the hospitals were chosen based on their location and were spread across the Capital.
The court then pointed to a petitioner who had to travel a lot to receive treatment, and asked if the government considered the population density and the rate of Covid-19 infection. It further asked if the government conducted a sero survey to select the hospitals.
“People are having to travel from one end of Delhi to other... if beds are reserved across, this situation will not arise,” the court said. Jain replied that the hospitals, spread across the city, have large ICU beds, which is a preference of patients. He added that the government can provide publicity to the hospitals so that patients know about them.
The court further asked why the government cannot evenly divide the reservation across all hospitals. Jain said that the remaining hospitals have a fewer number of beds and if they reserve beds, they would not be able to treat non-Covid patients.
The High Court also remarked that the Delhi government’s order was “outdated”. “The yardstick cannot be the same,” it added.
The additional solicitor general also submitted that they agree with the court’s view that the situation was different in September, and one could have said that the government’s notification was “premature” then. He added that the Delhi government would address the matter.