Stating that Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and Minister of Health and Population Bhanu Bhakta Dhakal had disobeyed the Supreme Court’s order to the government to test and treat COVID-19 patients free of cost, advocates Lokendra Oli and Keshar Jung KC have filed a contempt of court case against the duo.

A division bench of Justices Ananda Mohan Bhattarai and Tanka Bahadur Moktan at the apex court had earlier ordered the government to provide all preventive, diagnostic, therapeutic and rehabilitative services related to COVID-19 free of cost.

The earlier writ petition was also filed by advocates Oli and KC.

In their contempt of court case, they advocate duo have argued that Nepali citizens are entitled to free treatment for infectious diseases and since COVID-19 was an infectious disease, people infected with the disease were entitled to free treatment as per the Public Health Service Act.

They have said that despite the apex court’s order, the government had decided to charge people for COVID-19 test and treatment.

The government has said it will bear the cost of “poor, helpless, single women, differently-abled citizens, senior citizens, frontline health workers, sanitation staffers and security personnel”.

The petitioners have argued that though the government had decided to charge people for test and treatment on October 5, it announced the decision only on October 18 to take advantage of the court’s closure so that its decisions could not be challenged in the court.

Though it is understandable that the government may face dearth of resources, but that fact that it has failed to make any preparation to meet this challenge cannot be ignored, the petitioners have said.

They said there was no attempt by the government to enforce pay cuts for government employees and VIPs to manage resources for COVID-19 test and treatment.

The petitioners have urged the court to impose one-year jail term and Rs 10,000 fine on the defendants for defying the court order.

The Supreme Court, in its earlier verdict, had said that the government’s decision not to test asymptomatic people was unconstitutional and illegal, as asymptomatic people could also transmit the disease to healthy people.