Kochi: The Kerala High Court on Monday quashed the Kerala government's order to reduce charges of RT-PCR tests in private laboratories to Rs 500 from Rs 1,700.
The High Court also quashed the order to initiate criminal proceedings against those who are not implementing the order. In May, the Kerala government had issued an order to reduce the RT-PCR test rates in the state from Rs 1700 to Rs 500.
A bench of Justice TR Ravi also directed the state government to hold discussions with owners and representatives of private laboratories and take a fresh decision in this regard.
The Court's ruling came on the petitions filed by Accredited Molecular Testing Laboratories and Devi Scans Private Limited seeking to set aside the order. The petition contended that "the state government has no power to issue an order fixing a rate for tests in private labs."
The order was issued without jurisdiction and in violation of principles of natural justice. The average cost of conducting an RT-PCR test as per the present norms and quality standards comes to around Rs 1500 per test, the plea read.
"Any revision in the existing rates would detrimentally affect their interest as well as the quality of the RT-PCR test. The clientele of the private labs is persons, who have to travel abroad or those who intend to undergo surgeries and operations in private hospitals. In both these cases, the accuracy of the tests cannot be diluted at any rate. Cheaper testing kits are available in the market but they may not produce accurate results. The government issued the order unilaterally and without affording them a chance of being heard," the High Court said.
On this, the state government submitted a report in the court and stated, "the cost of kits, consumables have drastically come down and the argument of the private labs is that the only way to move forward is to use test kits that are cheaper and not up to the mark in getting an accurate result was without any basis."
The RT-PCR test rate in Punjab is Rs 415, while it costs Rs 500 in Maharashtra, Haryana and Uttarakhand, the government said.