The Supreme Court of India
A representational picture: The Supreme Court of IndiaReuters

In a landmark verdict, the Supreme Court directed Delhi's private hospitals built on subsidized government land to provide free treatment to poor people on Thursday, reported Hindustan Times.

The verdict came in the wake of the hearing of a petition by 10 private hospitals challenging the Delhi High Court order directing them to provide free treatment to poor patients as per the land lease agreement between the government and poor l and owners (poor people).

The apex court bench of Justice RV Raveendran and Justice AK Patnaik says private hospitals can't "wriggle out" of their responsibility to treat the poor people free.

On the other hand the bench has shown that court is to safeguard the weaker section of the society.

"Why did you (hospitals) take the land? You hand over the land to the government and purchase it somewhere else," it was the reply of the bench when the counsel appearing for the hospitals pleaded that it was not practical to provide free treatment to the poor in all the cases.

Dismissing the appeal of the private hospitals the bench directed, "The bottom line is that the poor patients are not to be charged."

"The hospitals will provide free treatment to poor patients on 25 percent of Out Patient Department (OPD) patients and 10 percent of the indoor category," added the court.

"They (poor patients) will be provided free admission, bed, medication, treatment, surgery facility, nursing facility and consumables and non-consumables. The hospitals charging any money from such patients shall be liable to be proceeded against in accordance with the law. Besides that, this would be treated as violation of the orders of the court," the High Court had said.

The high court had pronounced the judgment on a PIL seeking implementation of the land lease agreement between the government and the hospitals for providing, among other things, free treatment to certain percentage of the poor patients out of their total treatment capacities.

The order is applicable to hospitals which have been allotted land by the Delhi government at concessional rates.

In 2007, the court had ruled that all private hospitals which were given public land at highly subsidized costs would provide free treatment to the poor, allocate 25 per cent of their out-patient department (OPD) capacity and 10 per cent of their in-patient department capacity for them.