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Restrictions on travel for health facilities violates fundamental rights : Telangana HC

Restrictions on travel for health facilities violates fundamental rights : Telangana HC

On May 11, 2021, the Government of Telangana had issued guidelines wherein, the COVID patients from other States, who want to get hospitalized and take treatment in hospitals in Telangana, were allowed to cross the State's border only if they were authorised by the State's control room. The said Guideline has been issued invoking Epidemic Disease Act, 1897 and the Disaster Management Act, 2005.

The Covid patients from other States without travel authorisation were not allowed to cross the State's border, and were returned back. Reportedly, two Covid patients died while waiting at the state’s border. Responding immediately to the incident, a two-judge bench of Telangana High Court comprising of Chief Justice Hima Kohli and Justice B. Vijaysen Reddy "stayed" the operation of the Guideline, till further orders. The court observed that "No State action can be validated that results in avoiding or delaying access to medical assistance when a patient is in a dire need of such a treatment". It also observed that the act of the State violates sacrosanct right to life guaranteed under Article 21 and operates as a fetter on right to move freely throughout India as enshrined under Article 19(1)(d) of the Constitution of India. 

After the Telangana High Court directed the Government of Telangana to allow movement of patients from other States to avail medical treatment in hospitals in Telangana, the Government, started an indirect way of restricting movement of Covid patients. 

Article 14 urges from State equal treatment to all equally placed persons (here, Covid patients), and when Article 19(1)(d) allows every citizen to move freely throughout the territory of India, and when bouquet of rights under Article 21 allows an individual to live and enjoy a dignified life, then one State cannot trim other State's residents life-span by restricting their movement, thereby depriving them of the best health facilities and remedies. 

A patient has a fundamental right to avail the best medical treatment in a place of his own choice in India, subject, of course to the condition that he can afford the private treatment. At this time, when the nation is battling with a deadly virus it is expected that the states stand united and fight against the virus and not amongst themselves. Allowing patients to avail best healthcare facility is the least one can do, and on humanitarian terms, it should be promoted.

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