The Bombay High Court on Tuesday refused relief to the widow of a private doctor who died of coronavirus, citing that the Rs 50 lakh insurance cover under a Central scheme included only those private medical practitioners who were drafted for Covid-19 duties.

A division bench of Justices S J Kathawalla and R I Chagla dismissed a petition filed by Navi Mumbai resident Kiran Surgade seeking Rs 50 lakh cover under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY) for her husband who died after contracting Covid-19 from a patient at his clinic.

According to the plea, the petitioner's husband Bhaskar Surgade, an Ayurveda doctor, got a notice from the commissioner of the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC), asking him to keep his dispensary open and warned action if he fails to comply with the notice.

The petitioner claimed that her husband opened the clinic and started treating patients, including those infected by coronavirus and he too contracted the disease and died of it on June 10, 2020.

The petitioner applied for the Rs 50 lakh compensation under the PMGKY insurance package but the request was turned down on the ground that her husband was not serving in any hospital or government healthcare centre and hence was not eligible.

Appearing for the Maharashtra government, advocate Kavita Solunke argued that the petitioner's services were not requisitioned and hence, he would not be eligible for the insurance cover.

The bench in its order noted that only those private doctors whose services are requisitioned for Covid-19-related duties and responsibilities would be covered under the scheme.

The scheme clearly states that for a private healthcare provider to be covered under the scheme, he or she must be drafted or requisitioned by the state/Centre for Covid-19-related responsibilities, the order stated.

"The petitioner would be necessarily required to prove that Dr Surgade's services were in fact requisitioned/drafted in relation to Covid-19 duties by the state/Centre to seek application of the Scheme," the court said.

The court further said the NMMC notice only asked the petitioner's husband to keep his clinic open and the same cannot be construed as a notice requisitioning his services for the specific purpose of treating Covid-19 patients and/or working in a Covid-19 hospital.

"There is a difference between specifically requisitioning/drafting services and directing private practitioners to not keep their clinic closed. The intent and object of the NMMC notice was to encourage medical practitioners to keep their dispensaries open," the court said.

The notice did not mandate that the said dispensaries are to be kept open for Covid-19, it noted.