Kerala HC sets aside slashing of RT-PCR test charges

K.C.Gopakumar Kochi | Updated on October 04, 2021

Kerala High Court Building (file photo)

The court, however, kept in abeyance its order to facilitate discussions with the lab owners or representatives

The Kerala High Court on Monday set aside the State Government's order reducing the price of RT-PCR tests from ₹1,700 to ₹500 in private diagnostic labs in the State.

Justice T.R.Ravi also directed the State Government to take within three weeks, a fresh call on the price of RT-PCR tests being conducted in private laboratories after holding a discussion with the owners or representatives of the lab.

The court, however, kept in abeyance its order setting aside the reduction of test charges, to facilitate discussions with the lab owners or representatives.

The court made it clear that the direction to keep in abeyance its order should not be understood to be a permission to take coercive action against the petitioners or similarly situated persons.

The court observed that when the price for the test was fixed as a result of the directions issued by the ICMR pursuant to a Supreme Court judgment, necessarily, the State was obliged to discuss the matter with private laboratories. The order which was issued without conducting a discussion with the private laboratories and that too in a matter in which they were seriously affected could not be legally sustained.

The directives were passed on a few writ petitions by Accredited Molecular Testing Laboratories and another private lab challenging the order slashing the price of RT PCR tests.

Petitioners contention

The petitioners contended that the order slashing the price of RT PCR tests was issued violating the principles of natural justice. The State government had no power to issue an order fixing the price for the test. According to the petitioners, the average cost of conducting an RT-PCR test as per the present norms and quality standards would come to around ₹1,500 per test. In fact, revision in the charges of the test had detrimentally affected the quality of the RT-PCR test. The cheaper testing kits were available in the market but they might not produce accurate results. The accuracy of the tests would be diluted by fixing a cheaper rate for the tests. They argued that the order had unilaterally fixed the price, without hearing them.

The State Government submitted the cost of kits and other consumables used for tests had drastically come down. The contention of the private labs that the only way to move forward was to use cheaper test kits was untenable. While the rates in Punjab are only ₹415, ₹500 is charged in Maharashtra, Haryana and Uttarkhand for the test. All laboratories except 10 laboratories had accepted the rates fixed by the Government.

Published on October 04, 2021

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