The Supreme Court on Friday ordered states to fix a reasonable charge for ambulance services that ferry Covid-19 patients.
A three-judge bench, headed by justice Ashok Bhushan, also asked states to follow the standard operating procedure (SOP) framed in this regard by the Central government in March.
“States should follow the SOP and take appropriate measures for augmenting the capacity of ambulances,” said the bench, which also comprised justices R Subhash Reddy and MR Shah.
The petition filed by an NGO, Earth, had prayed for increasing the number of ambulances by requisitioning private one in order to meet the increased demand in view of Covid-19.
The petition had also highlighted shortage of ambulances in several parts of the country and the price hike in ambulance services due to the high demand.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, told the court that it had already issued an SOP covering the issues raised in the petition.
Justice Shah, however, pointed out that many states were not implementing the SOP.
“I can say for Ahmedabad. They (patients) are at the mercy of these people (ambulance service providers) who charge Rs 7,000 to 10,000 for the ambulance,” he remarked.
The SOP laid down the procedure for guiding and training the ambulance drivers and technicians in transporting the Covid-19 patients. It is also provided for monitoring the functioning of the ambulances and laid down protocols for cleaning and decontaminating ambulances.
The petitioner pointed out that the Centre’s SOP does not cover the pricing aspect.
The top court therefore asked states to fix a reasonable cap with respect to the price for ambulance services besides following the SOP.