HC Raps Delhi Govt Over Lack Of Steps To Regulate Illegal Labs

"Except a letter being issued, nothing has happened. We are not satisfied. Once there is a Supreme Court judgment laying down what should be done, you should implement that."

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NEW DELHI:The Delhi high court ticked off the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in the national capital on Friday for not taking any steps to regulate the pathological laboratories and clinics in the city and asked the principal secretary of the Health department to be present before it on the n ext date.

A bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V K Rao said when the Supreme Court had made it clear that only post-graduate degree holders in pathology could sign medical test reports, it should have been implemented by now.

It added that instead, the Delhi government was only issuing letters to its chief district medical officers (CDMOs) to find out the locations of the illegal laboratories.

The Delhi government’s additional standing counsel, Sanjoy Ghose, who appeared in the matter for the Health department, said apart from asking the CDMOs to map the locations of all the pathological laboratories and clinics in their area, public notices were also issued, asking such establishments to get accredited within six months.

He added that the Clinical Establishments Bill, for regulating laboratories and clinics, was in the final stages of finalisation and was presently before the Law department for vetting.

The bench, however, was not satisfied with the submission and said, “Except a letter being issued, nothing has happened. We are not satisfied. Once there is a Supreme Court judgment laying down what should be done, you should implement that.”

“Sitting in your office and issuing letters will not help. How many raids or inspections have you conducted after the letters and notices were issued,” it asked.

The court directed the principle secretary, Health of the Delhi government to appear before it on December 17, the next date of hearing, and explain what steps were proposed to be taken to regulate the laboratories and clinics till a law was enacted to keep a check on such establishments.

The court also said the principle secretary should come with the apex court order so that he could answer the queries of the bench.

The court was hearing a bunch of PILs alleging that unauthorised laboratories and diagnostic centres were being managed by unqualified technicians and seeking formulation of a policy to regulate such establishments.

One of the petitioners, social activist Bejon Kumar Misra, has sought in his plea that as an alternative, guidelines be framed for implementation of the Clinical Establishment (Registration Regulation) Act, 2010 to deal with the entire issue.

Appearing for Misra, advocate Shashank Dev Sudhi argued before the bench that there was a need for urgent action as patients’ lives were at stake.

He contended that unqualified laboratory technicians were not only conducting various tests, but were also coming up with inferences based on unscientific and unqualified outcomes, which undermined the health and safety of people.

The lawyer said a small error in the diagnosis would lead to a threat to the lives of patients.

The petitioners claimed that the steps taken by the Delhi government till date were only an “eyewash”.

The high court had, on September 19, said the presence of unauthorised pathological laboratories and clinics in the national capital was a “serious issue”.

It had directed the Delhi government to inspect the laboratories and clinics, find out who were running those and under which law were those set up.

Misra, in his plea, has said, “Such illegal labs continue to mushroom in and around Delhi-NCT and it can be easily estimated that the total number of such illegal pathological and diagnostic labs can be anywhere between 20,000 and 25,000, and every street in the capital has such illegal pathological labs.”

“The National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL) under the Quality Council of India (QCI) is optional and not mandatory before the opening of a pathological or diagnostic lab in Delhi,” the petition added.

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