Supreme Court quashes govt’s review petition obligating state to conduct free PCR tests, COVID-19 treatment

The Supreme Court of Nepal (Image: Supreme Court Website)

The Supreme Court on Thursday refused to entertain the review petition filed by the Ministry of Health and Population seeking to challenge its earlier verdict that had ordered the government to provide free test and treatment to COVID-19 patients.

A full bench of justices Hari Krishna Karki, Sapana Pradhan Malla and Purushottam Bhandari refused to accept the review petition, obligating the government to follow the apex court’s earlier decision that the test and treatment should be free.

The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) on Monday had filed a review petition on behalf of the Ministry of Health and Population against the apex court’s order passed on October 1 that directed the government to provide free test and treatment for COVID-19.

OAG had argued in its petition that the Supreme Court failed to consider the fact that the government has been providing free test and treatment to those who cannot not afford it.

The Health Ministry had also argued that COVID-19 is not a disease whose treatment can be listed in basic health service and the decision to charge some categories of people for test and treatment was in view of the country’s limited economic resources.

As for the contempt of court case filed against Minister of Health and Population Bhanu Bhakta Dhakal, the apex court issued a show cause notice to Minister Dhakal asking him to submit a written reply within seven days on why the punishment sought against him by the plaintiffs should not be awarded to him for defying the court order.

Advocates Lokendra Bahadur Oli and Keshar Jung KC had filed a contempt of court against Dhakal stating that the government had stepped over the court’s October 1 order to provide free test and treatment for COVID-19 patients and announced on October 18 that state-run hospitals will charge the public for the same.

A single bench of Justice Ishwar Prasad Khatiwada issued the show cause notice to Minister Dhakal.