HC seeks AAP govt's reply on contempt plea for not complying with order on online path labs

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New Delhi, Apr 15 (PTI) The Delhi High Court Thursday sought response of the AAP government on a plea seeking contempt action against the authorities for not adhering to the earlier direction to take action against online health service aggregators which are operating illegally and collecting samples for COVID-19 tests.

The plea by a doctor urged the high court to allow the application and restrain the illegal online health service aggregators, which are not authorised to collect diagnostic samples for COVID-19 tests, from further committing contempt of order passed by the court last year.

Justice Najmi Waziri asked the Delhi government to file a reply to the application and listed the matter for further hearing on April 30.

The Supreme Court had on April 8, 2020 directed that COVID-19 tests must be carried out in NABL-accredited labs or any agencies approved by the WHO or ICMR. A division bench of the high court, on August 6, 2020 had directed the Delhi government to take action in accordance with law against online health service aggregators, who are operating illegally without any registration, after hearing all the stakeholders.

Advocate Shashank Deo Sudhi, representing petitioner Dr Rohit Jain, said it was a matter of great concern that the second wave of COVID-19 is already on the rise breaking all the previous records and the brisk business of the online aggregators collecting and testing coronavirus samples is on the rise across the country.

The petitioner, in his fresh application, claimed that the court has posted the matter on six dates for awaiting replies of the authorities which have neither taken any action against the online aggregators nor filed any action taken report.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi while addressing the chief ministers of all the states to discuss about the prevailing second wave of COVID-19 pandemic on April 8, 2021 categorically stressed that ‘proper sample collection is very important’ for correct testing and reporting of COVID-19.

“The petitioner is time and again trying to bring to the notice of the court that the illegal online health service aggregators are neither authorised to collect samples nor test for COVID-19 or routine testing by ICMR and are not accredited by NABL (National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories) being marketplace e-commerce entities,” the application said.

It claimed that this rampant illegal sample collection by online health service aggregators is leading to false negative COVID-19 results thereby letting loose the coronavirus positive patients in the society and hence unfortunately allowing them to transmit or spread the virus.

It said there is an urgent need to restrain the online health aggregators from collecting the diagnostic samples illegally to save the innocent people in the interest of the public at large and action may be initiated against them as directed by the court on August 6 last year.

The fresh application was filed in a pending contempt petition in which the high court had earlier sought response of the Delhi government.

The petition has sought initiation of contempt proceedings against the top government officials and others for alleged non-compliance of the high court’s order asking to take action and regulate online pathological labs.

The petitioner has sought contempt action against Delhi Chief Secretary, Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Directors General of Health Service and ICMR for allegedly not complying with the high court’s last year order.

Sudhi has submitted that the online aggregators like 'healthian' and '1 mg' are illegally operating in Delhi. He has claimed that these online aggregators are playing with the lives of the common people and must be banned.

The plea has claimed that the government has completely failed to comply with the order of the court by not taking appropriate legal actions against online health aggregators despite the direction.

It has alleged that authorities are equally responsible for not restraining the illegal practices of online aggregators which are freely being carried out under the eyes of these officials in utter violations of the rules and regulations laid down by statutes and the guidelines issued by the respondents from time to time ever since the outbreak of deadly COVID-19.

It has said that several illegal online aggregators are advertising freely by offering attractive packages for body check-ups including the test for COVID-19 through SMSs or various online modes and added that the petitioner has received advertisements of online aggregators through e-mail for getting tested.

The high court’s August 6, 2020 direction had come while disposing of a PIL seeking a ban on allegedly illegal online health service aggregators from collecting diagnostic samples for testing of COVID-19 infection. PTI SKV SKV RKS RKS