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Delhi HC summons minister over delay in enacting law to regulate CEs

The Delhi High Court on Thursday asked the Delhi health minister and health secretary to appear before it over the time taken to enact a law to regulate clinical establishments, including laboratories, saying it is a “sorry state of affairs”.

The high court sought personal presence of Health Minister Saurabh Bharadwaj and Health Secretary SB Deepak Kumar after perusing an email which stated that the minister was not kept in loop during the discussions on the Delhi Health Establishments (Registration and Regulation) Bill, 2022 which is also referred as the Delhi Health Bill.

“In view of the email, both the Delhi Health Minister and the Delhi Health Secretary are directed to be personally present in the court on March 21 at 4 PM,” a bench of Acting Chief Justice Manmohan and Justice Manmeet PS Arora said.

The high court was hearing a 2018 petition by Bejon Kumar Misra who has alleged that unauthorised laboratories and diagnostic centres in the national capital were being managed by unqualified technicians.

During the hearing, Delhi government’s additional standing counsel Anuj Aggarwal apprised the court that the office of standing counsel has received an email from the office of health minister stating that he was not kept in loop while discussions were taking place.

The minister, in the email, requested that the hearing be deferred for some time to enable him to look into the matter and to comply with the court’s earlier order directing the Delhi government to expedite the process of finalisation of the bill.

The high court, in its May 30, 2022 order, had said if the process was likely to take a long time, the Delhi government was directed to consider the feasibility of implementing The Clinical Establishments (Registration and Regulation) Act, 2010 in the meantime.

On Thursday, after going through the email, the bench observed, “We can only say it is a sorry state of affairs. This has been pending for the last five years.” The bench said the health minister and the health secretary cannot have a “spat” like this.

“This was never heard of before. Some maturity must be shown by both of them,” it said.

The Delhi government had earlier told the high court that it was “actively” taking steps for drafting, finalising and enacting its own law to regulate clinical establishments, including laboratories, here.

In an affidavit, it had also stated that provisions of an existing central government statute, Clinical Establishment (Registration and Regulations) Act, 2010, are not applicable to the national capital and guidelines have been issued to regulate all laboratories conducting Covid-related tests.

The bill “provides for the regulation of clinical establishments rendering services in recognised systems of medicines in the National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi, including laboratories, prescribing minimum standards of facilities and services to be provided by them in order to safeguard the interests of patients and health care providers”, the affidavit had stated.

The government had said that the city is at present governed by the Delhi Nursing Home Registration Act.

Once the Delhi Health Bill is examined by the law department and finalised, it will be placed in the public domain for inviting suggestions and comments from stakeholders, and subsequently, be placed before the Cabinet and then the lieutenant governor for approval, it had said, adding that finally, it will be placed before the legislative assembly for its enactment.

Bejon Misra’s counsel had argued before the court that pathological labs in the city are unregulated which poses a threat to the lives of citizens.

In his plea, he said, “Such illegal labs continue to mushroom in and around Delhi-NCT and it can be easily estimated that the total number of such illegal pathological and diagnostic labs can be anywhere between 20,000 and 25,000, and every street in the capital has such illegal pathological labs.” PTI

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