The Rajasthan Right to Health Bill has been passed, making Rajasthan the first state in India to guarantee access to healthcare as a legal entitlement for every resident. Under the law, all residents have the right to free treatment, including emergency care, at any health institution in the state, and neither government nor private hospitals nor doctors can refuse emergency treatment.
Thousands of doctors are protesting the law, with many concerned that it could harm medical professionals, particularly private practitioners. The protesting doctors argue that the law will lead to increased bureaucratic interference in their work and could be impractical and burdensome for private hospitals. They also claim that the law ignores advice from medical professionals and fails to consider the practical realities of the healthcare system.
Critics of the law have also noted potential legal issues, including the fact that it does not specify whether private clinical establishments will be reimbursed for providing free services, which could violate Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution, guaranteeing the right to practice any profession or carry on any occupation, trade or business. The law also requires District Health Authorities to upload an action taken report on a web portal for complaints, but it does not specify who will have access to the report, which could infringe on patients' right to privacy.
Implementing the law is expected to increase the financial burden on the state, but the law does not provide for such additional costs. Hospitals and doctors will be liable to pay a fine of Rs 10,000 for any violation of the law, which increases to Rs 25,000 for subsequent violations.
The right to health is already recognized in India, with the Supreme Court ruling in 1996 that the right to life (Article 21) includes the right to health and the obligation of state governments to provide health services. The National Commission on Human Rights drafted the Charter of Patient Rights in 2018, which is to be implemented by state governments.
The Rajasthan Right to Health Bill was introduced in the Rajasthan Assembly in September 2022 and was referred to a Select Committee headed by the Minister of Health and Medical Services, Parsadi Lal Meena. However, private hospitals and nursing homes across the state have been shut for several days, leading to an overburden of patients at government hospitals as doctors continue to protest against the law.