A group of state-owned private diagnostic laboratories approached the Kerala High Court on Monday against the state government’s order to reduce fees for RT-PCR tests from ₹ 1,700 to ₹ 500.

In their petition, the owners of the lab said that according to current norms and quality standards, the average cost of performing an RT-PCR test is ₹ 1,500. Revising the fees would affect the quality of the tests.

They pointed out that cheaper test kits were available in the market but they might not give good results. A large part of their clientele consisted of travelers abroad or people intending to undergo surgery in private hospitals.

Therefore, the accuracy of the test could not be compromised by using cheaper kits. It was virtually impossible to do effective RT-PCR tests at ₹ 500 unless the quality of the reagents used in the test and the processes were compromised. The ordinance would force labs to use cheaper kits, leading to the generation of inaccurate results and, as a result, not having the virus.

The petitioners argued that the government did not have the power to issue an order setting the fee at ₹ 500 and requiring labs to collect only the flat fee. They alleged that the government adopted the order unilaterally and without hearing them.