On 8th April 2020, the Supreme Court passed a decision in the case of Shashank Deo Sudhi v. Union of India as to free test of COVID-19 in both Govt. and approved private laboratories and also that the test must be carried out in NABL accredited labs or agencies approved by WHO or ICMR.

However, the same bench has modified its order and said only those families who belong to the economically weaker sections of the society can claim for the free tests of COVID-19.

The kits which are being used for the tests are imported and involves substantial expenses, therefore it is impossible for the labs to carry on test free of costs due to financial constraint. This modification came after Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi submitted before the Court the above-mentioned scenarios. Currently, the persons who are covered under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Aarogya Yojana, popularly known as Ayushman Bharat Yojana, the labs are conducting free of cost of COVID-19.

The Court contended that the government may consider as to whether any other categories of persons belonging to economically weaker sections of the society can be extended benefit of free testing of COVID-19.

As per the modified order, the following guidelines are issued:

  1. The Government of India, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare may consider as to whether any other categories of the weaker sections of the society e.g. workers belonging to low-income groups in the informal sectors, beneficiaries of Direct Benefit Transfer, etc. and issue appropriate guidelines.
  2. The private Labs can continue to charge the payment for testing of COVID-19 from persons who are able to make payment of testing fee as fixed by ICMR.
  3. The Government of India, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare may issue necessary guidelines for reimbursement of the cost of free testing of COVID-19 undertaken by private Labs and necessary mechanism to defray expenses and reimbursement to the private Labs.
  4. Central Government to give appropriate publicity to the above and its guidelines to ensure that all those are eligible for the benefit can avail it. It has to be seen that no person can take undue advantage of the decision.

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