The Supreme Court on Friday said if the government was unable to provide second line treatment to HIV patients due to financial constraints, the court would then take up the matter as a constitutional issue as it involved fundamental right to life.
Cautioning the government against abdicating its constitutional duty of providing the treatment, a bench headed by Chief Justice SH Kapadia said: "Let us put the matter in constitutional perspective. It is about right to life. It is not open to the state to say that finance is the constraint."
The remarks against the government's inability to provide the treatment evoked an immediate reply from solicitor general Gopal Subramanium who was till then giving details of the treatment and the high expenditure required.
The SG clarified that state did not have the capacity to provide treatment as it has only 10 viral load test centres required for the second line of treatment.
The bench granted one week's time to present a "clear-cut" stand and said: "We are concerned with human life. Can we not treat those (suffering from irrational treatment)?"
To a question by the court, the SG said there were 122 people in the country who have suffered irrational treatment. He said that for the first round of treatment, the cost was around Rs. 6,500 and it goes up to Rs. 28,300 in the second round.
The SC had on November 26 criticised the government for making a distinction in providing the second line of ART treatment to HIV patients by excluding those who opted for private hospitals for the first round.