Yuva - India

Delhi and Madras High Courts on COVID-19

The Delhi High Court was approached by a number of hospitals seeking oxygen supply in the last few days. The court had earlier questioned the state government’s level of preparedness. On 26TH April, Monday, the court witnessed another hearing over the covid-19 situation in the national capital region.

The Delhi High Court on Monday said that it had already passed directions to the Customs for priority clearance of imports related to COVID-19 testing. It also observed that testing labs have constraints such as staff shortage and strict times. Solicitor General, Tushar Mehta informed the Bench that the Centre was on a war footing for the augmentation of oxygen supply for medical use. Empty tankers had also been uplifted and special trains had been deployed. He also clarified that the Delhi Government had not been able to arrange any tankers and requested them to take action in this regard.

Regarding the allocation of oxygen, the Court told the Centre to look into it and procure it and distribute it equitably. The Centre was suggested to make an appeal to all industrialists who may come forward. The Court reiterated that making the oxygen reach Delhi is both the Centre and the State Government’s job. The Bench then appealed to states to refrain from obstructing the transport of oxygen tankers to the national capital.

After the Bench came to know that authorities in Rajasthan had stifled the transport of oxygen to Delhi, the Court noted in its order, “We hope and expect Rajasthan to honour the order passed by Centre and this Court. Intervention in the matter of supply of oxygen would tantamount to endangering hundreds of human lives.  It serves no purpose to anyone to obstruct.” Solicitor General Mehta replied saying, “Strict action would be taken against such persons involved”.

Advocate Alok Agarwal, appearing for Maharaja Agrasen Hospital informed the Court that the hospital had offered their assistance to the Delhi Government in transporting oxygen but the offer was neglected. The Court after taking a view of this stated, “If communication was sent, share it before us. If State Government ignored your offer, then that is something which is very serious”. The Court then directed Agrasen Hospital to take up this issue with the Chief Secretary, Delhi and added, “We are not attributing motives but the fact remains that there has been a lapse. It can be rectified”.

Senior Advocate Sachin Dutta, appearing for Jaipur Golden Hospital claimed that the oxygen supply chain was being obstructed by the Delhi Government and he said, “Enormous SOS calls were made. They arranged something from AIIMS but it was some minutes late. There is a shortage and uncertainty. Delhi Government doesn’t understand the supply chain. How long after patients die should hospitals issue SOS? Inox (oxygen supplier) should directly send me the dispatch note. The bureaucratic machinery of the Delhi Government has completely failed”.

Director, Inox, Siddharth Jain commented, “My factories are working 24×7. When my truck leaves, it is working like a milkman, dropping off small quantities at several hospitals. Our trucks are diverted midway. Why would I not want to give oxygen? It is my business. Nobody has complained except Delhi Hospitals, I wonder why!” Considering such issues faced by the concerned parties, the Bench directed the Chief Secretary, Delhi to hold a meeting with hospitals, suppliers, re-fillers to work out a proper system for oxygen supply.

About the instances of black marketing of oxygen cylinders, the Court directed that all re-fillers in the city be present before it on 27th April. The aspect of acute shortage of COVID medicines will also be taken up on Tuesday.

The Madras High Court reprimanded the Election Commission of India for its failure to stop the ‘abuse’ of COVID norms in election rallies. The Court orally remarked, “The Election Commission officials should be tried for murder charges for its failure to stop the abuse of COVID protocol in political rallies contributing to the COVID crisis”. Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee said, “You are the only institution that is responsible for the situation today. No action against political parties taking rallies despite every order of the Court. Your Election Commission should be put up on murder charges, probably!”

The matter was posted for hearing on April 30.

Albeit the Courts all across the nation have the best of intentions aimed at curbing the ongoing crisis in the country but the moot question of the current times is that what exactly is more important? Court hearings or COVID management? Haplessly, instead of devoting officers to secure supplies and logistics, government departments are now additionally engaged in replying to High Courts. Critical officers are now engaged full time in replying to queries of the High Courts, studying orders, preparing responses or affidavits and in the meantime, ACTUAL WORK IS SUFFERING!

The Additional Secretary in Home Ministry, Mr Piyush Goyal, who is in charge of securing logistics for oxygen, seamless movement between the states, and other such crucial tasks is also now bound to spend a significant portion of his time in High Court hearings, especially the Delhi High Court. Drugs Controller General of India, Dr. V.G. Somani is putting in the time to reply to the Courts, listen to lengthy arguments, and prepare draft replies, instead of engaging 24×7 into securing medicine supplies!

The Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DIPP) is also engaged in replying to the High Courts. This is the department that is to secure supplies of oxygen, etc. The Secretary and Additional Secretary, Sumitra Dawra, are both COVID positive; the Secretary being in ICU.

It is a well- known fact that Court hearings are a time- consuming process, especially if the matter of concern is as grave as a national health crisis. Then, keeping the best intentions of the public in mind, what are the Honourable High Courts really achieving out of it?

Sonakshi Datta

Intern, Goa Chronicle

DISCLAIMER: This article reflects author’s view point. Goa Chronicle may or may not subscribe to views of the author

#Delhi High Court, #Madras High Court, #COVID-19, #COVID-19 Crisis

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