Delhi rape: Court says all hospitals 'must treat' victims
A court in Delhi has ordered the city government to tell all hospitals - private and state-run - they must treat victims of rape and road accidents.
The court order came after last month's fatal gang rape of a young woman.
Her companion later said that police who arrived at the scene argued over which state-run hospital was closest.
Correspondents say treatment is often delayed because of uncertainty over who will pay if a victim is taken to a private hospital.
The gang rape victim's friend, who was also injured in the assault, said they lay by the roadside, naked and bleeding, while police debated the issue. The police have denied the accusation.
The brutal gang-rape on 16 December caused outrage across the country and led to demands for a change in the country's laws on sex crimes.
But the disclosures about what happened after the police arrived also led to calls for changes in the official response to emergency situations.
'Attend to victims'
The Delhi high court said that a hospital, whether private or government-owned, could not turn away anyone needing emergency care.
"We direct the principal secretary, health department of Delhi government, to issue directions to all the hospitals, including private hospitals, to attend to victims of gang rape, victims of other crimes, particularly road accident victims," a bench headed by Chief Justice D Murugesan said.
The order said they should be given first aid treatment or treatment "depending upon their conditions".
The city authorities assured the court that they would issue an order to all hospitals within a month.
Correspondents say it is hoped that such an order may allow victims to be taken to the nearest hospital regardless of whether it is private or state-run.
On Wednesday, PM Manmohan Singh said the government would "pursue" the recommendations of a panel which recently reviewed India's laws on sex crimes.
The commission, headed by retired chief justice JS Verma, has called for faster trials and longer sentences for convicted rapists, but not the death penalty.
The 23-year-old woman, who cannot be named in India for legal reasons, was attacked after boarding a bus in south Delhi with a male friend.
Police said the assailants beat both of them, and then raped the woman. She suffered massive internal injuries and died nearly two weeks later.
Six suspects were arrested for the crime. Five of the accused are on trial at a specially convened fast-track court in Delhi.
If convicted, they could face the death penalty. A sixth suspect, who is 17 years old, is to be tried by a juvenile court.