The Supreme Court in a recent order in the case of Sachin Jain v Union of India, while hearing the writ petition dealing with the commercialization of healthcare, reprimanded the lethargic attitude of state governments and union territories in enacting legislation pertaining to public health for the benefit of citizens.
The writ petition filed by Supreme Court advocate Sachin Jain sought for an appropriate writ to be issued, directing the Union of India to: (1) regulate the cost of treatment of patients infected with covid-19 at private hospitals across the country; (2) mandate that private hospitals that are built on public land, allotted at concessional rates – either on the ground that those hospitals are run by charitable institutions or otherwise – treat covid-19 patients free of cost or on a non-profit basis; (3) bear the cost of treatment of covid-19 patients at private hospitals for the poor and vulnerable, who have neither the means nor insurance cover, by expanding the coverage under public health schemes such as Ayushman Bharat; and (5) combat the commercialization of healthcare by the private sector.
Health has always been a state subject. The category of “Public health and sanitation; hospitals and dispensaries” falls in entry 6 of list II in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution. However, only a few states took advantage of this and enacted laws.