Decided on May 02,2007



T.S.THAKUR,J. - (1.) THIS petition filed in public interest prays for a mandamus directing the respondents to forthwith increase the number of ambulances being run and operated by the Centralised Trauma Centres Society and to frame the necessary rules and regulations regulating ambulance services in Delhi. A mandamus directing respondents No. 1 and 3 to make it mandatory for every ambulance to be duly inspected, verified and certified by the Health Department of the Government of Delhi has also been prayed for apart from a mandamus directing registration of all ambulances under a separate category of 'Ambulatory Vehicles' and not as commercial vehicles.
(2.) A series of interim orders have been issued by this Court in these proceedings in which a total of 19 hospitals in Delhi run by the Government of NCT, Delhi and by Union of India added as party respondents. The Court had directed all the Government hospitals to furnish details of the vehicles being run as ambulances and whether the same were equipped with the necessary gadgets for life saving purposes. Subsequent orders especially those passed on 9.1.2007 and 12.2.2007 directed the Health Secretary Delhi Administration to file separate affidavits after consulting the Transport Department of Delhi as to what regulations and checks are being maintained while permitting private operators to operate ambulances and what is the hire/fee structure permissible for such services. Affidavits were also demanded from the Medical Superintendents, Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital and Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital to explain as to why there is only one ambulance attached to each one of those hospitals and the reason for not providing an adequate number of ambulances for the benefit of the public. These affidavits have been filed indicating the available ambulances and the proposed additions to the number thereof. By an order dated 6.2.2007 the Court had directed the respondent hospitals to file undertakings in the form of affidavits to the effect that ambulances attached to them shall not be misused by the hospitals for carrying doctors or doing any other official work and that they shall be used exclusively for carrying patients particularly the needy ones who cannot afford any other transport/conveyance. It is not in dispute that the requisite affidavits/undertakings have been pursuant to the said directions filed by all the hospitals. The undertakings furnished by the hospitals against use of the ambulances for purposes other than ferrying patients are accepted with a direction that the hospitals shall strictly implement the same and take suitable action against any one found committing a breach. That, in our opinion, should sufficiently take care of the grievance made in the writ petition that ambulances attached to the hospitals are being used for purposes other than carrying patients. It is noteworthy that apart from filing undertakings in this Court the hospitals have issued circulars clearly stipulating that ambulances attached to them shall not be used for any purpose other than carrying the patients and that any one violating the same shall be suitably dealt with. That brings us to the question whether there is any hire/fee structure fixed by the Government for the use of ambulances and if there is none, whether the Government should fix such a fee structure to prevent exploitation of the needy public at the hands of the ambulance operators. It is not in dispute before us that there is no statutory provision as at present regulating the fixation of hire charges of ambulances. Although the petitioner who appears in person strenuously argued that there is a need for such a statutory provision to ensure that the needy public is not exploited by unscrupulous operators, it is, in our opinion, a matter for the appropriate Government to examine. Since the area is not covered by any statutory provision no failure on the part of the Government in the matter of fixation of the hire charges of ambulances can be assumed. So also the question whether the fee structure stipulated for the ambulances run by CATS can be extended to private operators is a matter that should more appropriately engage the attention of the Government rather than this Court in the present public interest petition especially when fixation of any hire/fee structure would require inputs which are not readily available to this Court. The petitioner next argued that insofar as private and other ambulances are concerned, the directions issued by this Court on 12.2.2007 requiring a certificate from two doctors and the Deputy Secretary (Health), NCT, Delhi as a condition precedent for registration of the vehicle should continue. This would according to the petitioner ensure that the ambulances fulfilll certain basic requirements from the material point of view. We see no reason to decline that prayer keeping in view the fact that pursuant to the direction of this Court dated 12.2.2007 the Government has already constituted a Committee and issued a circular dated 19.2.2007 to the effect that the registration of the ambulances shall be subject to the Committee certifying that the vehicle is fit to be used as an ambulance. That direction, in our opinion, serves a salutary purpose of providing the vehicles being used as ambulances with minimum medical facilities necessary to ensure that the patients traveling in the same reach the destination safely. The respondents shall, therefore, continue to insist on the issue of a certificate by the Committee mentioned above till such time appropriate statutory regulations are framed by the Government or till any other alteration in the requirements formulated by the Committee is ordered by the appropriate Government.
(3.) THAT leaves us with the question whether there is a shortage of ambulances in the city hospitals and whether CAT should add some more vehicles to its fleet. Mr. Tandon, learned Counsel appearing for the CAT submits on instructions that CAT plans to raise the number of vehicles in its fleet to 450 by 2008 as against near 35 vehicles presently in use. Mr. Tandon submits that CAT has already invited tenders for the purchase of ambulance vehicles and that with the addition of the new vehicles the position would get substantially eased. That statement has been put on affidavit by CAT and is hereby accepted by us. Consequently the apprehension of the petitioner that the shortage in the number of ambulances being operated by CAT or by the hospitals will continue to adversely affect the interest of the user public must stand allayed. Having said so we leave it open to the petitioner to file an appropriate representation to the Secretary, Health Government of NCT, Delhi or the Union Health Secretary as the case may be addition to the existing fleet of ambulances attached to various hospitals run by them in which event the proposal shall be examined similarly and appropriate directions on the subject issued. The writ petition and all pending applications filed in the same shall stand disposed of with the above directions. No costs. Writ Petition disposed of.;

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