The Delhi High Court has directed the Delhi government to reimburse forthwith over ₹ 16 lakh to a serving judge of the district judiciary towards the cost of Covid treatment incurred by him during the second wave of the pandemic.
The high court refused to accept the submission of the Delhi government’s counsel that the private hospital, where the Additional District Judge (ADJ) was treated, shall be asked to explain why it charged amounts higher than those prescribed in a government circular. The hospital, he said, shall be directed to refund the overcharged amount of ₹ 16,93,880.
Justice Rekha Palli said the fact remains that during April-May 2021, when the residents of Delhi were not only struggling to get hospital beds but there was also a huge shortage of oxygen, the petitioner judge had no other option but to seek treatment at a private hospital and has thankfully survived.
“One shudders to think what fate the petitioner would have met if he had not, at that point, been treated at respondent no.5 hospital,” the high court said.
ADJ Dinesh Kumar, posted in Saket district courts here, was admitted in a private hospital in the national capital between April 22 and June 7, 2021 after contracting COVID-19 during the second wave. He remained there on ventilator for three weeks. While he had to pay ₹ 24,02,380 to the hospital, the government reimbursed only ₹ 7,08,500 on the ground that the hospital had ignored the charges fixed by it for treatment of patients suffering from COVID-19.
He approached the high court against the government’s refusal reimburse the full amount.
The high court allowed his petition and directed the government to pay the balance amount of over ₹ 16 lakh within four weeks.
The high court made it clear that it has not expressed any opinion on the validity of the June 2020 circular and, therefore, it will be open for the government to pursue a remedy as per law against the hospital, including taking penal action, and recovery of any amount which it perceives has been charged in excess of what was prescribed.
The high court, while deciding the petition, said undoubtedly the authorities are justified in urging that the hospital had charged much beyond what was prescribed in the circular of June 20, 2020 issued by the Delhi government because of which the petitioner incurred higher expenses.
It said the petitioner, who had to spend his hard-earned savings while undergoing treatment to save his life, cannot be simply told that since the hospital has failed to abide by the circular, he should seek refund from the hospital.
“This court does not deem it appropriate or necessary to delve into the validity of the circular, in the present petition, where an officer of Delhi Higher Judicial Service is seeking simpliciter reimbursement of the amount for the bona fide expenses incurred by him for treatment at the hospital for COVID-19, when the city was engulfed with the second wave of the pandemic,” it said.
The judge said, “I have no hesitation in holding that the respondent nos.1 to 3 (Delhi government authorities) ought to forthwith reimburse the petitioner by paying him the differential amount of ₹ 16,93,880, and if permissible, recover the same from the hospital”.