Image Source - https://indiancaselaws.wordpress.com/2015/10/25/aalawchak-state-v-narayan-kamble-court/

This article has been written by Pranay Sankhla.

Statement of problem

There is a lot of tension and strain on society during the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown. In this case, it is alleged that on August 6, 2020, a young pregnant woman from Puichi village in Noney district died as a result of the denial of medical facilities by 5 (five) hospitals, including government-run institutions. On the 5th of August, 2020, the deceased was admitted to the District Hospital in Senapati for the delivery of a baby, according to the study. 

After her health worsened, she was referred to JNIMS hospital for further care. In the absence of an ambulance, she was transported by rented vehicle to JNIMS Hospital in Imphal, where she was refused medical assistance due to a lack of doctors. She was then moved to RIMS Hospital in Imphal and then to Raj Medicity in Imphal. She was then taken to Langol’s Shija Hospital, where she died. 

The petitioners bring this incident up in their letter dated August 14, 2020, addressed to the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Manipur, a copy of which is enclosed. Annexure-A/2 is the representation. The new Public Interest Case was filed to draw attention to the grievances of people from all over the state. In that PIL the writ of mandamus has been issued to ensure that emergency maternal health facilities are available at all times in all hospitals in the state of Manipur, despite the COVID 19 lockdown, and that no woman is denied access to maternal healthcare services and also, to ensure that maternal Healthcare infrastructure and facilities are adequate in District Hospitals, Primary Health Care Centers, and Primary Health Services Centers, especially in remote areas.

Arguments

  • If the young lady died as a result of a lack of proper medical care, it should be investigated by the government by a competent authority to determine why timely medical attention was not provided to the deceased. The Government must also investigate if emergency service was refused at any point in time, in light of the Court’s previous orders in the earlier PIL, in which the Government promised that ambulance service would be provided at the district level as well. 
  • Several directives were given by the State Government during the COVID-19 pandemic. Orders dated 6 August 2020, 7 August 2020, and 19 August 2020 were cited by the learned Advocate General. These directives include 24-hour hospitalisation, a helpline, and protocols to follow if COVID-19 is detected. The state, on the other hand, is required to provide medical services at all district headquarters hospitals as well as Government hospitals in Imphal.
  • Government hospitals are unable to reject medical care on the basis of any excuse. If the charges, in this case, are correct, the government health department should take serious action against the erring doctors or the person(s) who were responsible for the deceased’s delayed medical treatment. In this situation, an audit should be undertaken so that the errant authority can be kept responsible. 

Resolution of court

The Court directed the State Government to issue appropriate instructions to all district headquarters hospitals to maintain ambulance facilities in good working order, provide hospital and ambulance service helpline numbers, and ensure that patients are transferred from district hospitals to Headquarter hospitals without undue delay in order to save the lives of people who are ill or injured. 

Critical appraisal 

In my opinion, the resolution given by the court is not justified. As the young lady died due the improper facility and refusal of medical assistance. The court should have given some compensation to the husband as her fundamental right has been infringed. Article 21 of the Indian Constitution includes the right to health as a right. Previously, the Right to Health was included in the State Policy Directive Principles (DPSP).

In India, Article 47 of the Directive Principle of State Policy considers it to be the state’s fundamental duty to improve general health, ensuring justice, and human state of work, expansion of disorder, mature age, disability, and maternity benefits, among other things. The Supreme Court, on the other hand, has upheld the right to health under Article 21. The scope of this structure is enormous.

It supports the right to life as well as individual liberty. Article 21 of the Constitution defines ‘life’ as more than just the physical act of breathing. It does not mean the existence of trivial beings or a life of drudgery. It has a much broader significance, encompassing the right to live in human dignity, the right to livelihood, the right to health, the right to pollution-free air, and so on. It was held in the case of State of Punjab v. M.S. Chawla that the right to life guaranteed by Article 21 includes the right to health and clinical consideration. 

The right to health refers to and signifies the highest quality of health that each individual is capable of. Under international human rights law, the global network considers health to be an important and major human right. In contrast to other human rights, the right to health requires states to ensure that the right to health is respected, protected and fulfilled for all of their citizens. ‘Right’, according to Salmond, has a corresponding obligation that must be met, and no right may exist without an equivalent portion of the obligation. 

Article 38 of the Constitution establishes the state’s responsibility to ensure that social demands for government assistance in general health are met. The labourers’ welfare is guaranteed under Article 39. Article 41 refers to the state providing open assistance in unusual circumstances such as disorder, handicap, advanced age, and so on. Article 42 protects the welfare of the unborn child and the mothers, as it applies to maternity benefits.  Article 47 makes the state responsible for improving public health, ensuring equality, providing workers with comfortable working conditions, and increasing benefits related to infection, handicap, advanced age, and maternal benefits.

Furthermore, in the Paschim Banga Khet Mazdoor Samity and Ors v. State of West Bengal and Ors, the scope of Article 21 was expanded; as a result, the court held that it is the legislature’s responsibility to provide adequate clinical guidance to each person and to function in the overall population’s government assistance. Furthermore, Article 21 allows the state to specifically commit to maintaining and protecting each individual’s rights. 

In India, the legal system has played a major role in accepting the right to health as a part of Article 21 of Chapter III, which regulates the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Indian Constitution. The state has been organised to provide the best possible health indicators to its citizens in order to comply with international standards. Thus the fundamental right that women had been infringed as the right to health is a fundamental right.


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