New Delhi, Nov 10 (PTI) The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to grant any interim relief against the Delhi High Court order staying the AAP government's decision to reserve 80 per cent ICU beds in 33 private hospitals for COVID-19 patients and ordered urgent hearing on the plea on November 12.
The top court asked the AAP government to approach the High Court, requesting it to hear on Thursday the plea that was earlier listed before a division bench on November 27.
“In view of the above, we are of the view that looking to the facts of the case and the request made by counsel for the parties, we request the concerned bench for taking up the LPA on November 12,” said a vacation bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and B R Gavai.
Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain, appearing for Delhi government, told the bench that there is an urgent requirement of hearing the matter since situation in the national capital regarding necessity of providing ICU beds to COVID-19 patients is increasing day by day.
“It shall be open for the parties to submit such pleadings and submissions before the division bench as may be advised. Counsel for the petitioner shall place this order before the Chief Justice for listing of the matter on November 12. With these observations, the special leave petitions stand disposed of,” the bench said in its order.
At the outset, Jain said this is not an adversarial litigation and the Delhi government wants to continue with the 80 per cent reservation of ICU beds for COVID-19 patients after reviewing the situation and discontinuation of the same after few weeks when the situation normalizes.
The apex court asked Jain to have a look at the order passed by the division bench which says it was on the request of the appellant (Delhi government) that the hearing was adjourned to November 27.
Jain replied that the counsel for Delhi government engaged to argue that day was diabetic and was not fit to argue the case and hence an adjournment was sought, but it cannot be November 27, as COVID cases are rising in the national capital.
The bench asked Jain why the Delhi government cannot request the High Court to prepone the hearing, tell about the urgency and pray for fixing an early date.
Jain submitted that in the last few days, the number of COVID-19 cases have crossed 7,000 per day in the city.
The bench said it's a fluctuating state as at one point it was 1,000 cases per day, but the Delhi government has not brought before the court any material on record to show that no beds are available to COVID-19 patients.
Jain stated that a lot of people come from outside Delhi and get treated in private hospitals using ICU beds.
He said an expert committee has suggested that Delhi needs 6,000 ICU beds against the availability of 3,500 beds and if the notification is upheld then Delhi could have had 300 to 500 more beds.
He added that out of 133 hospitals, only 33 hospitals have been reserved. The bench asked Jain to inform all these facts to the Delhi High Court.
Jain submitted that operation of the impugned order of September 22 of the single judge bench needs to be stayed or else the COVID-19 cases will rise beyond control.
Senior advocate Maninder Singh, appearing for the 'Association of Healthcare Providers', the original petitioner before the High Court, said the division bench can be asked to consider the matter whenever the court deems fit.
Jain urged the top court to ask the division bench of the high court to consider the matter by Wednesday as once the damage is done, there will be no use of the hearing.
The bench, after noting the submissions of Jain and Singh that the matter needs to be heard urgently by the high court because the COVID-19 situation in Delhi is worsening, asked the division bench to consider the matter on November 12.
The apex court’s vacation bench was hearing an appeal filed by the Delhi government against the high court’s September 22 interim order. The apex court is on Diwali break this week.
A single judge bench of the high court on September 22 had stayed the Delhi government's September 12 decision, saying that asking 33 big private hospitals to reserve 80 percent of ICU beds for COVID-19 patients would violate the fundamental rights of those having other health conditions.
The government has already challenged the single judge's order before a division bench of the high court which had listed it for hearing on November 27.
While staying the Delhi government’s order, the high court had come down heavily on it asking whether the non-COVID-19 patients have a right to life or not.
It had observed that prima facie, the government's order was “arbitrary, unreasonable and violative of fundamental rights of citizens” guaranteed under the Constitution The single judge bench had passed the order on a plea by the 'Association of Healthcare Providers' challenging the Delhi government’s September order.
Over the last few days, Delhi has reported record spikes in coronavirus cases. The national capital reported its biggest single-day jump of 7,745 cases on Sunday, taking its tally to 4,38,529. PTI ABA MNL SJK ABA RKS RKS