Health Ministry applies for review of SC order for free treatment of COVID-19

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Kathmandu-The Health Ministry has applied with the Supreme Court (SC) for review of its order for free treatment of COVID-19 on Monday.

A bench of Justices Ananda Mohan Bhattarai and Tanka Bahadur Moktan on October 1 had issued a mandamus instructing the government hospitals to provide free testing and treatment of COVID-19.

Health Secretary Laxman Aryal has applied for review of the mandamus on Monday arguing that it is against the principles propounded by the court itself. The review application mentions that the court issued the mandamus for free testing and treatment without considering the government’s policy about insurance.

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The government on October 5 had relinquished the responsibilities of testing and treating COVID-19 patients saying it will no longer provide free services drawing widespread criticism.

The government has since published a list categorizing persons who will receive free treatment. The categories include impoverished people, incapacitated persons, helpless persons including helpless single women, people with severe disabilities, older adults (70 years and above), and those working on the front line including health professionals, sanitation workers, security persons and others.

Those eligible for free testing and treatment must submit relevant documents or make self-declaration before availing the free services. The testing and treatment expenses, however, will be deducted from insurance claims if the person receiving free services is insured.

The ministry has pointed at the decision and claimed that the government has taken full responsibility for those who need social security.

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“We demand review of the mandamus and its revocation as it was issued without paying attention to the provision including that of insurance kept in the budget for those infected with coronavirus and it was issued ignoring the Constitution, laws, international practice and the financial state of the country,” the review application reads.

The review application has been registered on the day the SC registered the contempt of court case against Prime Minister (PM) KP Sharma Oli and Health Minister Bhanubhakta Dhakal accusing them of violating the Apex Court’s order for free testing and treatment of COVID-19 after removing the name of PM as defendant.

Advocates Lokendra Oli and Keshar Jung KC had taken the petition on Sunday but the SC refused to register it for the day when the registration process was almost complete.

The SC order for free treatment was issued on a petition which had the Health Ministry as the defendant. The contempt of court accusing violation of the order, however, had also made PM Oli the defendant as he headed the Cabinet that took the decision to charge fees for testing.

The SC argued that only the defendant named in the main case should be made the defendant in the contempt of court case and told the applicants to correct it adding it will be registered only if corrected.

Advocate Oli told Setopati that they have been forced to correct the petition as the SC refused to register it without correction. “We were told to correct the name of defendants and include only the name of defendant of the main case. We are mere individuals. We could not do anything as the whole institution was for that. We have registered the petition hoping at least the line minister will be punished,” he added.

The SC had ordered on October 1 to not charge for testing and treatment of COVID-19 by government institutions. But the government on October 5 had decided to charge for COVID-19 treatment. Health Ministry Spokesperson Dr Jageshwore Gautam had briefed about the Cabinet decision to that regard during the daily press briefing on October.

Advocate Oli stressed that they had named PM Oli as a defendant as the Cabinet had taken the decision violating the court order. “It is not appropriate to say that the person whose decision obstructed implementation of the SC order cannot be made defendant but the SC did not agree,” he added.

The petition registered on Monday has named the Health Ministry and Minister Dhakal as defendants and demanded they be jailed for up to one year and fined up to Rs 10,000. Source

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