The Supreme Court on Monday directed private hospitals in Delhi, which were given land at concessional rates, to provide free treatment to people from economically weaker sections (EWS).A bench led by justice Arun Mishra and S Abdul Nazeer held that any violation of the agreement between the government and the private hospitals of reserving 10% of the beds and 25% of the outpatient clinics for poor patients will be treated as contempt of court.“I initially went to court in 2002 because nothing was happening. Even the hospitals where the allotment letters said that up to 70% beds had to be reserved were not following the guidelines,” said social jurist Ashok Agarwal, who is the petitioner in the case. A 2007 judgment by the Delhi high court said that hospitals had to pay fines for earning profits on beds that had to be reserved for the poor.“But Moolchand and the others went to the court and said that they would not follow the reservation norms as it was not a part of the initial land deal and it was retrospectively added by the government. This petition challenges the HC decision allowing them not to reserve beds for the poor,” said Agarwal. The judgment will affect the four hospitals – Moolchand, St Stephen’s, Sitaram Bharatia , and Rockland – that had contested giving free beds to EWS patients. “Apart from that, BL Kapur hospital and Rajiv Gandhi cancer hospital which are also on subsidised government land will have to follow the 10% reservation in the wards and 25% in the out-patient clinics,” said Agarwal. The Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Hospital denied that it bought land on a concessional rate.“This judgment should not be binding on us as it clearly states that all private hospitals that received land from the government on concessional rates. We neither received the land on concessional rates nor was there any mention of such a clause in our agreement,” said Dr S Khetrapal, medical superintendent of the hospital. All the six hospitals together will increase the number of reserved beds for patients from the economically weaker sections by around 250. Currently, nearly 700 beds are reserved under the scheme.“Even if just the four hospitals follow the norm, another 100 beds at least would be added to the scheme,” said a health department official on condition of anonymity. The scheme ensures that the complete treatment of the EWS patients, including medicines and tests, have to free at these hospitals. “I do not have the details yet and will be able to comment only when we receive a copy of the judgement,” said a senior official from Rockland Hospital. St Stephen’s Hospital refused to comment, while Moolchand and Sitaram Bhartia hospitals said they would get back.