New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Monday said it will examine whether the AAP government’s pilot project at the GTB Hospital to give preferential treatment to city residents was violating the rights to equality and life enjoyed by others under the Constitution. A bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V K Rao said it has noted the Aam Aadmi Party-led government’s “difficulties” related to infrastructure, staff and facilities and will consider if these are valid grounds to deny others their rights under Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution.
With the observations, the court reserved its verdict on an NGO’s PIL challenging the Delhi government’s pilot project at the GTB Hospital here.
During the hearing, the Delhi government’s senior standing counsel Rahul Mehra told the court that no individual has so far filed a complaint against its October 1 circular initiating the pilot project at the hospital.
Mehra said no one was being denied treatment, access to tests or outpatient (OPD) facilities and the hospital was only prioritising whom to treat first.
He said the Delhi government-run hospitals have to prioritise in this manner, as it does not have as much funds as the central government has.
He said that it was an innovative idea of the Delhi government and it should not be struck down on the basis of a PIL which does not list even one complaint.
Mehra said the Delhi government took this policy decision as the huge influx of patients was putting a lot of strain on its infrastructure and staff, and it was also leading to manhandling of doctors by patients or their attendants.
The bench, however, appeared unimpressed by the contention and asked, “Who is responsible for this? The courts? Or is it mismanagement? If you cannot manage then stop the facilities.”
The court further said it has noted the Delhi government’s difficulties and will examine if they constitute a sufficient ground to justify the decision to give preferential treatment to residents of the national capital over others.
The bench said that the government ought to have evaluated the shortcomings and taken steps to rectify them, instead of taking away the rights of others by changing the manner in which they are provided treatment.
“We will consider it in light of Article 14 (right to equality) and Article 21 (right to life and liberty) of the Constitution and pass orders,” the court said and reserved its judgement on the PIL by NGO Social Jurist.
The NGO, in its plea filed through advocate Ashok Agarwal, has opposed the pilot project initiated by the Delhi government at the Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital.
It has challenged the October 1 circular issued by the government claiming that it allegedly denies treatment to non-Delhi patients at the GTB Hospital.
Agarwal argued before the court that thousands of patients coming from outside Delhi and those not possessing a voter ID card of Delhi were being denied treatment at the hospital subsequent to the issuance of the circular.
The NGO, in its plea, has said the hospital cannot discriminate against patients based on their regional identity and added that such discrimination was not anywhere else in the country.
The proposal to give preference to the residents of Delhi at the GTB Hospital in east Delhi’s Dilshad Garden was approved in August by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
Under the pilot project, residents of Delhi get preference at registration counters, in-patient department, tests and medicine counter service and identification is done on the basis of voter identity card.