Kerala HC quashes govt order reducing RT-PCR rates at private labs to Rs 500

The court asked the government to decide on a new rate after discussion with private lab owners, who alleged the price cap was fixed without discussing it with them.
Covid-19 testing
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The Kerala High Court on Monday, October 4, quashed the state government's earlier order reducing the rates of RT-PCR tests in private labs from Rs 1,700 to Rs 500. The court asked the government to fix a new rate for the tests after discussing with owners of private labs, reported LiveLaw. The state government had issued the order reducing the rate to Rs 500 in April this year. The move came after the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) developed test kits for reduced rates. 

The price of RT-PCR tests at private labs had initially been fixed at Rs 2,750 last year, while it has always been free at government labs. This was later reduced to Rs 1,500 in private establishments, but again increased to Rs 1,700 after a High Court order. In April the government further sent out the order reducing it to Rs 500. The new court direction to quash this order came after hearing a petition filed by laboratory owners who said that the rate of Rs 500 was fixed without any discussion with them. The laboratory owners informed the court that the prices were low due to which they were incurring losses.

Justice TR Ravi, while quashing the government order, said that a new rate should be fixed for RT-PCR tests after discussions within three weeks. The state government has only two options — to hold discussion with the laboratory owners or approach the court's division bench to stay the new single bench court order.

In July, while hearing the case, the court had asked the government and the Kerala Medical Services Corporation (KMSC) if they could provide raw materials for the test kits at a cheaper rate to the private labs. The KMSC had then said that it can be considered. However, it added that the purpose of setting up the company was to give raw materials to government labs at a reasonable rate, not for the private labs. 

(With IANS inputs)

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