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Delhi’s decision to limit health services

Topics Covered: Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.

Delhi’s decision to limit health services

What to study?

For Prelims: SDMA- chairperson, powers and functions.

For Mains: Orders by Delhi government, implications and why was it necessary to overrule them?

Context: Delhi Lt Governor Anil Baijal has issued two orders that struck down key announcements made by the Delhi government in the past week. These include:

  1. To reserve beds in private and Delhi government hospitals for residents of Delhi.
  2. To limit the scope of Covid-19 testing.

What’s the issue?

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has announced to restrict COVID-19 treatment in Delhi’s private hospitals and those run by the government of NCT only to those with proof of residence in the city.

Besides, the Director General of Health Services Delhi (DGHS), had ruled out testing of asymptomatic contacts of confirmed patients.

Why Lieutenant-Governor of Delhi overruled this decision?

  1. Right to Health’ is an integral part of ‘Right to Life’ under Article 21 of the Constitution. While health care is far from being universal in India, positively denying that to someone on the grounds of residency is insensitive and irresponsible.
  2. The NCT is functionally contiguous with Gurugram in Haryana and NOIDA in Uttar Pradesh. Thousands cross these borders for work and other needs including health care. People contribute to tax revenues in three different jurisdictions. And hence there cannot be restrictions.
  3. In his second order, the L-G, pointing out “deviation” from guidelines of the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR), directed the Delhi government to test asymptomatic direct and high-risk contacts of confirmed cases as well. It is because deviation in the ICMR guidelines can result in inadequate contact tracing of affected individuals and can result in further spread of COVID-19 in NCT of Delhi.

What has been the government’s argument and the rationale behind this move?

Situation in Delhi is already worsening. 5.5 lakh COVID-19 cases are expected by July-end for which 80,000 beds could be needed.

Powers of Lt. Governor to issue such orders:

He is empowered to issue such orders in his capacity as chairperson of the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA).

These powers have been conferred under Section 18(3) read with Section 18(2)(d) of the Disaster Management Act, 2005.

What was the problem with Delhi Government’s order?

If this order was implemented, it would have largely had two effects:

  1. It would have denied healthcare to scores of patients from other states who come to Delhi for specialised treatment that is unavailable to them in their hometowns.
  2. It would have led to denial of medical care to even those living and working in Delhi as they don’t have identity proofs of residency in Delhi.


Prelims Link:

  1. SDMA- composition, functions and powers.
  2. Lt Governor of Delhi Vs Governors of states- difference in powers and their appointment.
  3. DDMA- chairperson and powers to overrule government orders.
  4. NCR consists of?
  5. Who appoints the Chief Minister of Delhi?

Mains Link:

Can treatment In hospitals of a particular state be reserved for only the residents of that state? Discuss the issues involved.

Sources: the Hindu.