Private doctors not on Covid-19 duty are not covered under PMGKP, centre informs Bombay HC

The central government on Friday informed the Bombay high court (HC) that family members of private medical practitioners and other healthcare providers, not requisitioned for Covid-19 duties, were not entitled to the insurance cover of ₹50 lakh available to Covid warriors under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package (PMGKP).

Responding to a petition filed by the widow of a private practitioner from Navi Mumbai, advocate Sandesh Patil, who represented the central government, submitted that petitioner, Kiran Surgade, was not entitled to benefit under the package, as her husband, Dr Bhaskar Surgade, was infected by Covid-19 during the course of his private practice and was not requisitioned either by the state government or the local authority.

Patil said it was not possible to consider cases of such doctors who succumbed to Covid-19 during their private practice even on humanitarian grounds as such an attempt will open floodgates of claims, there being thousands of such cases across India.

Surgade, a resident of Kopar Khairane in Navi Mumbai had moved HC for a direction to New India Assurance Company Ltd. to immediately disburse her claim of ₹50 lakh under PMGKP.

Her petition filed through advocate Ajit Karwande stated that as coronavirus started spreading, her husband, an Ayurveda practitioner, had received a notice from Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) on March 31, 2020, asking him to keep his dispensary open and also warned to prosecute him under section 188 of the Indian Penal Code, if he failed to do so.

She claimed that her husband had to open his dispensary in terms of the notice and treat patients, including persons infected by the virus. Eventually, he acquired the infection and died on June 10, 2020.

Claiming that her husband died as a Covid warrior, on August 2, she submitted a claim under PMGKP for compensation of ₹50 lakh with the New Indian Assurance Company.

She moved HC after the insurance company rejected her claim on September 7, on the ground that the deceased was not serving in any hospital designated to treat only Covid-19 patients, but was a private practitioner.

Responding to the petition, assistant government pleader Kavita Solunke had through an affidavit of the director of health services that notices were issued to private medical practitioners to keep their dispensaries and clinics open, but doctors above 55 years of age and those with co-morbidities were exempted from the purview of the notices. Since Dr Surgade was 56 years old, he was exempted.

Advocate Sandip Marne, who represented the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation had supported the stand that Dr Surgade was carrying private practice and was not requisitioned by the civic authority at any point of time for Covid duties.

The division bench of justice SJ Kathawalla and justice Riyaz Chagla has now posted Surgade’s petition for further hearing on January 13, with a direction to advocate Patil to submit stand of the central government on an affidavit.

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