COVID Coverage: Screening and Treatment – August 5th to November 26th 2020
The Court considered the National Health Bill, 2009, and the lack of a public health plan, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the order dated August 5th, the Bench consisting of CJI Bobde, J Bopanna and J Ramasubramanian, listed the matter for final disposal in 15 days.
In its August 31st 2020 order the Bench noted that State Governments for the most part have failed to enact legislations regarding public health despite it being an entry under the State List. Following India’s inclusion as a signatory to the WHO’s International Health Regulations, the National Health Bill, 2009 was proposed.
The Bench proceeded to analyse the Bill and its merits, noting that it provided for the establishment of an ‘intensive accountability framework. This framework included health information systems, Government monitoring and community-based monitoring. The bill also provided mechanisms for public dialogue and public hearings. The Bench however, lamented that the Bill never passed and the States continued their failure to act.
Based on this, the Bench ruled that the States and Union territories were to be impleaded as parties. Directions were then given to the Union Government to:
- Convene a meeting of Health Ministers/ Secretaries of all States and Union Territories in one week;
- Come up with a legislative and executive master plan within 2 weeks of the first meeting;
- Convene a second meeting of the same parties to collate information received regarding the steps taken by the States and Union Territories;
- On receipt of this information, to file a comprehensive report compiling it all.
For those States with existing enactments, the State Governments were ordered to ‘fine-tune’ them on the model of the National Health Bill, 2009.
In an order dated October 26th, 2020 a paragraph from one of the affidavits was struck out on account of being ‘unnecessary and scurrilous’ and the matter was listed for two weeks from then.
The next order dated November 26th allowed an Interlocutory Application for impleadment and the matter was once again listed in two weeks.