A petition claimed that though the costs of such tests are not more than Rs 200, labs are charging exorbitant rates. The petition urged the court to fix it at Rs 400.
The petition has been filed by advocate Ajay Agrawal. A three-judge bench led by CJI SA Bobde issued the notices today to the Union, through the cabinet secretary and health secretary. The notices are returnable in two weeks.
The petition accused vested interests of profiteering off the misery of people affected by the pandemic by overcharging for the tests while the death rates spiked.
These tests range in many states and UnionTerritories anywhere between Rs 900 and Rs 2800, said the petition. In some instances, the profit margin was as much as 1,400 % as in the case of Andhra Pradesh and 1,200% in the case of Delhi, it alleged.
Though these tests are free in government hospitals, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has left it up to state governments to decide the caps in private hospitals and labs. These have been arbitrarily fixed and as a consequence these vary hugely, claimed the petition.
The expense of the kit was only Rs 200, it claimed, citing figures from a Nagpur-based lab.
Even if the prices are fixed at Rs 400 per kit, the labs would make a profit of 100%, it claimed.
Though the rapid antigen tests are cheaper at around Rs 625, these are comparatively less reliable for detecting Covid-19. The RT-PCR tests are more definitive. Hence, the demand for these tests have spiraled.
The petition argued that in the age of the pandemic-induced depression and loss of jobs, profiteering has kept these tests out of reach for most people.
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