‘Overcharging’ Covid patients from EWS: Bombay HC directs Charity Commissioner to conduct probe against charitable hospital

Written by Omkar Gokhale
| Mumbai |

Published: June 14, 2020 3:04:55 am

Advocate Aziza Khatri, for the hospital, denied allegations and sought the plea to be dismissed. (File)

The Bombay High Court directed Friday the state Charity Commissioner to conduct an inquiry into the grievances of seven petitioners who claimed to have been charged more than Rs 10 lakh by a Vidyavihar-based hospital, run by a Trust, for Covid-19 treatment.

The petitioner had approached the court claiming that they were from the economically weaker section (EWS), but the hospital had charged them an exorbitant sum for Covid-19 treatment and resorted to profiteering.

A division bench of Justices R D Dhanuka and Madhav Jamdar heard, through video conference, the plea submitted one Abdul Shoeb Shaikh and six others, filed through advocate Vivek Shukla, seeking from the court an enquiry against the hospital for alleged exorbitant charges collected by it from the petitioners who were admitted for Covid-19 treatment between April 14 and 28.

Shukla submitted that petitioners, all slum dwellers, belonged to EWS and had sought refund of charges upon their discharge but had got no response from the hospital authorities. It was submitted that the hospital charged various unnecessary amounts, including anaesthetist fees, while no such services were availed by them.

Aggrieved petitioners also sought from the authorities to know whether similar charges at the same rates were recovered from other patients who were admitted for the Covid-19 treatment. Exorbitant rates charged by public charitable Trust hospital were “illegal, arbitrary and unreasonable”, the plea said.

Advocate Aziza Khatri, for the hospital, denied allegations and sought the plea to be dismissed.

After hearing submissions, the court directed the charitable hospital to disclose, in an affidavit, whether there were beds available under 10 per cent quota for the economically weaker section when the petitioners were admitted for treatment, to indicate whether any PPE kits were provided for treatment of petitioner as indicated in the bills, and reply whether similar charges were recovered from other patients admitted for Covid-19 treatment.

The bench, led by Justice Dhanuka, also directed the state government, the Charity Commissioner and the Mumbai city Collector to file an affidavit as to whether the Trust was liable to reserve 10 per cent beds in its hospital for the EWS, and if so, on what terms and conditions.

The court also directed the authorities to make an enquiry whether such conditions are strictly fulfilled by the hospital during the lockdown period. The bench said that the enquiry should be conducted under the personal supervision of the Charity Commissioner and a report on the same be submitted to it before June 19.

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