By- Nidhi Shah
The Punjab and Haryana high court has restrained the Haryana Police from submitting challan against Gurugram-based SRL Diagnostics for submitting misreporting of COVID-19 results.
The Ambala civil surgeon called for an inquiry in April after the SRL laboratory reported three members of a family as COVID positive. Worrying about their results, the family approached for a re-test at the Ambala civil surgeon, their samples then sent to a government lab, where they tested negative in 24 hours. SRL Diagnostics had stood by its results.
The Gurugram police had on July 9 lodged an FIR against SRL Diagnostics, a private lab, for the alleged incident reported in April under Section 53 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 and various sections of IPC for cheating, forgery and related charges at Gurugram’s Sector 17-18 police station. SRL Diagnostics thus filed a petition against Haryana Police for quashing of the FIR filed against it.
According to the petitioner, it had carried out 1,522 tests on persons suspected of COVID-19 using the kits approved by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and out of that samples 44 tested positive for COVID-19. Afterwards, Ambala civil surgeon complained about the misreporting of some samples by the petitioner. As a result, a total of 15 samples sent to PGIMS, Rohtak, all of which tested negative. Consequently, an inquiry conducted followed by a show-cause notice to the petitioner. The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between the state government and the company cancelled.
R S Rai counsel for the petitioner argued that the FIR had been registered in haste and without any application of mind. He contended that the lab had conducted the tests with ICMR approved kits and as per government guidelines, on persons suspected of COVID-19. He told the Court, “The world over, an error of 10-12% is being seen with respect to the diagnostic tests being carried out for Covid-19 and as such on this count if at all, an error has crept in, though not admitted, it would be unreasonable on the part of the authorities to allege malafide intent. More so, when the alleged misreporting is premised upon a diagnostic result of PGIMS, Rohtak which had tested the samples sent to it at a different point of time and by using different kits from the one used by the company.”
After hearing the pleading, Justice Manjari Nehru Kaul of the High Court issued notice to the State government seeking its reply and passed the order, restraining Haryana police from filling challan against SRL lab under section 173 of Crpc till the next date of hearing. However, the court allowed an investigation against the petitioner to remain to continue.