'Will send you to jail': HC warns Saurabh Bharadwaj

In a stern rebuke to Delhi’s health leadership, the Delhi High Court issued a warning on Thursday, cautioning Health Minister Saurabh Bharadwaj and Health Secretary SB Deepak Kumar that failure to comply with judicial directives regarding the enactment of a law to regulate clinical establishments could result in imprisonment. The court emphasized their roles as public servants, reminding them that personal agendas must not obstruct the welfare of the common citizen.

The court’s dissatisfaction stemmed from an email indicating that Minister Bharadwaj was excluded from discussions regarding the Delhi Health Establishments (Registration and Regulation) Bill, prompting the court to summon both officials to explain their actions.

Expressing concern over the neglect of public welfare amidst internal conflicts, the bench, comprising Acting Chief Justice Manmohan and Justice Manmeet PS Arora, emphasized the paramount importance of addressing citizen grievances rather than engaging in bureaucratic disputes. The bench urged the officials to prioritize practical solutions over brinkmanship, warning of intervention if internal conflicts persist.

The court’s admonition extended to the possibility of enlisting a third party or issuing direct orders should Minister Bharadwaj and Secretary Kumar fail to resolve their differences promptly. The bench unequivocally stated that if the officials’ conduct continues to obstruct public welfare, they could face imprisonment.

The court underscored the urgent need for effective regulation of clinical establishments, echoing concerns raised in a 2018 petition by Bejon Kumar Misra, represented by advocate Shashank Deo Sudhi. The petition highlighted the proliferation of unauthorized laboratories and diagnostic centers operating in Delhi without qualified personnel, thereby jeopardizing public health.

Despite Minister Bharadwaj’s assertion that the Delhi Health Bill was finalized in May 2022, the court questioned the delay in submitting it for central government approval. Frustrated by the perceived attempt to exploit the court’s intervention as a strategic advantage, the bench rejected any notion of being manipulated and insisted on the immediate resolution of regulatory deficiencies.

The petitioner’s plea emphasized the grave risks posed by unregulated pathological labs, estimating their numbers to be between 20,000 and 25,000 across Delhi-NCT. The proliferation of such illegal establishments, the plea argued, poses a significant threat to public health and safety.

As the court’s scrutiny intensifies, the Delhi government faces mounting pressure to expedite regulatory measures and safeguard public health from the dangers posed by unregulated clinical establishments. Failure to act decisively could result in severe consequences for those entrusted with ensuring the well-being of the citizens they serve.

William Murphy

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