Medical insurance and health insurance services are essential services during COVID-19: Delhi High Court
The Delhi High Court has ruled that medical insurance and health insurance services are crucial services during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and therefore, ought to be permitted to move freely between hospitals and their own offices (Max Bupa Health Insurance vs GNCTD).
The order was passed by single-judge Justice Prathiba M Singh while dealing with a petition moved by Max Bupa Health Insurance (petitioner). The petitioner had moved the Court against the rejection of its request for employees' e-pass for movement, by the Delhi Government. He informed the Court that as per the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) order of April 19, 2021, insurance companies are classified under category 4 (l) and thus its employees require an e-pass in order to be able to move freely during the lockdown. However, when the employees applied for an e-pass, all their applications were ‘rejected’ without any reasons. The Delhi government, inter alia, submitted that the rejection was on account of various discrepancies in the documents submitted by the employees. The Court noted that the DDMA had treated a category which was excused from the movement restrictions upon producing a valid Identity card/ photo entry pass/permission letters. These included medical personnel and other hospital services like diagnostic centers, testing laboratories, clinics, pharmacies, pharmaceutical companies, medical oxygen suppliers, other incidental services etc. The Court opined that since the employees of the petitioner were dealing with processing and clearing of claims relating to health insurance policies or medi-claim etc, their services would be incidental to the services that were exempted from movement restrictions.
The Court said, "Medical insurance and health insurance services are essential services during the COVID-19 pandemic situation. Thus, the employees of the Petitioner company, who are dealing with medical and health insurance services, ought to be permitted to move freely between hospitals and their own offices, in order to expedite the processing of medical insurance claims." Further, the Court opined that making issuance of e-pass a complex process during the pandemic would result in "enormous delay" in health insurance services. The Court added, "Employees of insurance companies cannot be restrained in this manner from free movement, as their movement is essential during the situation of a pandemic where many are dependent on the clearance of health insurance claims for discharge from the hospitals."
It accordingly directed that the employees of the petitioner shall be exempted from the curfew restrictions once the petitioner has submitted a proper record of its employees to the official concerned.
Advocate Gurmeet Bindra appeared for the petitioner. Delhi government was represented by Standing Counsel Santosh Kumar Tripathi.