ICMR Should Look Into Complaints Against Private Labs, Whole Nation Is Suffering: Delhi HC

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'ICMR Should Look Into Complaints Against Private Labs, Whole Nation Is Suffering': Delhi HC

The court was hearing a petition on online health service aggregators' rampant illegal sample collection leading to false-negative COVID-19 results. Due to false reports, the COVID-positive patients were moving freely and unfortunately contributing immensely to the transmission of the virus.

The Delhi High Court on Tuesday, September 7, raised concerns over complaints recorded against private labs conducting COVID-19 tests and directed ICMR, the nodal agency, to look into the matter and revoke licenses in case there is any breach of set conditions.

"You have to look into it. You give licences to them. The whole year has gone by. The whole nation is suffering," Justice Najmi Waziri said, reported The New Indian Express.

Petitioner's Claims

The court was hearing a plea seeking contempt action against the agency for not acting upon the Delhi High Court's previous order to take adequate action against online health service providers that are operating illegally and conducting samples from COVID-infected patients.

The petition claimed that online health service aggregators' rampant illegal sample collection leads to false-negative COVID-19 results. This process thereby makes the fight against coronavirus more challenging. Because of the false reports, the coronavirus-positive patients are moving freely in society and unfortunately contributing immensely to transmitting or spreading the virus.

Last year, on August 6, the court directed to restrain the alleged online health aggregators for collecting the diagnostic samples. The top government officials and other authorities that failed to comply with the high court's order to take actions against online health service aggregators should be investigated.

The Delhi Chief Secretary, Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Directors General of Health Service, and ICMR are to be blamed for not complying with the court's order last year.

ICMR's Response

The Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) is the apex body in the country providing licenses to the labs.
The affidavit filed by ICMR to the Delhi High Court denied the claim by affirming that monitoring the activities of online health service aggregators doesn't come under the purview of ICMR.
According to the affidavit filed by ICMR in response to the contempt petition, the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL) provides a certificate for the enrolment of private labs for COVID-19 testing and not the ICMR.

The agency stated that whenever they receive complaints against private labs, they look into it and take action.

Court Lists Matter For Further Proceedings

Justice Waziri strictly directed ICMR to look into the matter, as the whole year has gone by and the repercussions are palpable. The High court heard the plea that sought contempt action against the authorities for not conforming to the Delhi High Court's earlier direction.
Representing petitioner of Dr. Rohit Jain, Advocate Shashank Deo Sudhi, argued that when the entire nation is suffering, ICMR is setting guidelines by stating that the issue does not pertain to the research body.
Anurag Ahluwalia, central government standing counsel appearing for ICMR, responded that they have only said they are not monitoring online health aggregators and have always diligently looked into the complaints received against private labs.
After carefully listening to the arguments, the court listed the matter for further proceedings on September 14. It said, "These standards have to be met. You ICMR give licenses to run the labs. You set the standards and give licenses," as per The New Indian Express.

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