On 23rd April, the Karnataka and Delhi High Courts heard pleas associated to the COVID-19 crisis in their respective jurisdictions. On one hand, the Karnataka High Court rejected pleas requesting the cancellation of the upcoming local body elections, scheduled to be held on the 27th. On the other, two more hospitals moved to the Delhi High Court.
On the afternoon of 23rd April, a Bench of the Karnataka High Court headed by Chief Justice Abhay S Oka and Justice Suraj Govindaraj refused to entertain two intervention applications that sought the postponement of the upcoming local body elections which are to be held on the 27th April, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This was a suo moto case that was registered in the wake of municipal corporation elections not being held as per the constitutional mandate.
The Court stated, “We must note here that intervener wants drastic relief of postponing elections for 10 local authorities. We fail to understand under which provision of law; intervener can seek relief of stay”. The Bench further observed, “It is for the Election Commission of India to take a call on whether an extraordinary situation existed for the postponement of elections. Elections of Vidhan Sabha were held in the first wave of COVID-19, then why not now?”
Next, on the evening of 23rd April, the Karnataka High Court directed the State Government to create a grievance redress mechanism, which would enable citizens to file complaints of COVID-19 norms violation via email or WhatsApp.
The order passed by Chief Justice Abhay Shrreeniwas Oka and Justice Suraj Govindaraj led Bench stated, “Today across the Bar, grievances have been made about large gatherings and congregations across the State. We direct the State Government to create a grievance redress mechanism enabling citizens to forward complaints on violations on the provisions of the Karnataka Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Act, 2020 so that complaints can be immediately looked into by State level committee and City level committee. Citizens can submit complaints through email, WhatsApp or any other form of media”.
The Court also directed that the information about the grievance committees should be published at the offices of all local authorities including Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP).
Last week, the Court had observed that the right to lead a healthy life is an aspect of Article 21 of the Constitution and cannot be obstructed by few people who refuse to wear masks or maintain social distancing during the times of a pandemic.
On the other hand, two more hospitals moved to the Delhi High Court seeking a supply of oxygen. The Bench was headed by Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli. The hearing took place on the evening of 23rd April. Bram Healthcare and Batra Hospitals had approached the Court seeking Oxygen supply.
It was highlighted by Senior Advocate Rahul Mehra that the Delhi Government had notified several refilling centers and appointed nodal officers. He also stated that as the PM had already held a digital meet with the Delhi CM and other CMs, things were moving in the right direction. He had also highlighted his concern about every second hospital approaching the Court shortly. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta too mentioned that there is a system in place by the Central Government and a nodal officer appointed by Delhi and that there is a system of the Delhi Government too.
The Court then observed, “Looking at a large number of hospitals and nursing homes, maybe the Delhi Government can have one more officer”. The Court, therefore, suggested to the Delhi Government that it was desirable to have more persons working with the Nodal Officer, Mr. Udit Prakash, and their numbers to be circulated. The Court stated, “With the aforesaid, we would expect all hospitals in NCT of Delhi to approach the Nodal Officer Mr. Udit Prakash and such other officers in the first instance to meet the requirements of Oxygen supply”.
The Court also recorded that while there had been some improvement, there still had been a shortfall of 100 MT per day. It also highlighted that the matter of allocation is undertaken by the Centre. The Court mentioned, “We have put it to the Solicitor General that the empowered group could look at the possibility of making re-allocation to reduce the distance. The same would make the transportation to and fro more efficient”.
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