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“Will send you to jail”: HC warns Delhi health minister, secretary on failure to bring new health law

22 Mar 2024

New Delhi: Admonishing the Delhi health minister and health secretary for not complying with judicial orders on enactment of a law to regulate clinical establishments, the Delhi High Court on Thursday warned them that they could be sent to jail. The high court told Health Minister Saurabh Bharadwaj and Health Secretary SB Deepak Kumar, who were present during the proceedings, that they are “servants of government” and can’t have “large egos”.

The court had in February asked Bharadwaj and Kumar to be present before it after perusing an email which said the minister was not kept in the loop during discussions on the Delhi Health Establishments (Registration and Regulation) Bill.

“What is troubling us is that the petitioner is highlighting the plight of a common man. He is telling us that all sorts of lab reports are being generated which are not true and correct and the common man is suffering. But it is your game of one-upmanship between the two of you and between the various factions that is going on. This is unacceptable to the court.

“You have to be practical and ensure that the touts do not benefit from the fight between these two people,” a bench of Acting Chief Justice Manmohan and Justice Manmeet PS Arora said, asking them not to indulge in “brinkmanship”.

The bench said if the minister and the secretary are incapable of handling the issues and keep on bickering, the court will ask a third party to handle things or pass an order about what has to be done.

“Don’t do this with us otherwise you both will go to jail. We will have no hesitation in sending both of you to jail if the common man benefits from this. Both of you can’t have large egos, you both are servants of the government and you both have to ensure that the common man benefits. What are you doing? People are getting wrong reports of their blood samples,” it said.

The high court was hearing a 2018 petition by Bejon Kumar Misra, represented by advocate Shashank Deo Sudhi, who has alleged that unauthorised laboratories and diagnostic centres were functioning in the national capital with unqualified technicians and giving incorrect reports to patients.

As the minister said the Delhi Health Bill was finalised in May 2022 itself, the high court asked why it was not yet sent to the Centre for approval.

The court said if this was going to take time, the Delhi government should consider implementing the central government statute- The Clinical Establishments (Registration and Regulation) Act, 2010.

The submission made by Bharadwaj that the court’s indulgence will help the government to get the bill enacted irked the court which said, “you think we are a pawn in this game and you will use this as a matter of strategy. We are not anyone’s pawn, cure this misconception that you will use the court’s process”.

The petitioner had argued before the court that pathological labs in the city are unregulated and pose a threat to the lives of citizens.

Source: Healthworld