October 25, 2008

Supreme Court stays High Court directive on hospitals at railway stations

The Supreme Court on Friday stayed a Delhi High Court directive to the railway ministry to provide makeshift hospital facilities at all railway stations in the Capital for passengers in need of urgent medical care.

Appearing for the ministry, additional solicitor general Gopal Subramaniam argued before a Bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justices P Sathasivam and Aftab Alam that providing for doctors and storing of medicines were not warranted as every railway station had an ambulance on call.

The HC had, acting on a PIL, directed the ministry to make available at least one qualified doctor and some paramedical staff, an ambulance and also adequate stock of medicines at New Delhi, Nizamuddin and Sarai Rohilla railway stations.

While conceding that the directions were laudable, the ASG pointed out that while passing the order the HC had "lost sight of the fact that these aspects, howsoever laudable, are not only in the nature of economic policy making, exclusively within the discretion of the government, but also requiring huge financial outgo needing budgetary support and approval by Parliament".

He said keeping an ambulance ready coupled with a doctor and medical staff would require huge amount of money without they being utilized. The railway stations have ambulances on call as an alternative, he added.

The ministry stated that the PIL's allegation that one or two passengers die every day on the platforms was not verified by the HC before passing the sweeping order.

Under the Indian Railway Medical Manual, it was incumbent upon the railways to provide medical facilities to passengers who were ill and such medical aid was invariably given as a matter of courtesy, the ASG said.

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