State Cannot Be Silent Spectator: Kerala HC Refers Issue Of State Fixing Covid-19 Test Rates To Larger Bench
In apparent support of the LDF government's decision to slash prices of RTPCR and Rapid Antigen tests to Rs 300 and Rs 100, respectively, the Kerala High Court today said that when faced with a pandemic situation the "state cannot be a silent spectator".
The High Court said that when the state was facing the COVID-19 pandemic, it did its level best to "do the needful" to ensure the general public was not affected.
"In such a situation, the government took certain steps to control the price of the (COVID-19) tests," Justice P V Kunhikrishnan said.
The judge also said that he "respectfully" cannot agree with the observations in an earlier order of the high court which said the state does not have the power to fix prices of the tests.
Justice Kunhikrishnan, therefore, said the issue needs to be decided by a larger bench and forwarded the matter to the Chief Justice for constituting an appropriate bench to hear the pleas of the private labs against the slashing of the test prices.
"A detailed consideration of this aspect by a Division Bench is necessary," the judge said.
The earlier prices of RTPCR and Rapid Antigen tests were Rs 500 and Rs 300, respectively and these were reduced by the state government on February 9.
The Accredited Molecular Testing Laboratories Association (AMLA) had last year challenged the state government's April 2021 decision to cap RT-PCR rates at Rs 500 and the high court had set it aside in October 2021.
The Court, while setting aside the cap on test prices, had asked the government to fix the rates after also hearing the private labs' concerns.
Subsequently, in February this year, the state slashed the rates further, which according to the labs was done without taking into consideration their concerns.
With PTI inputs