This article is written by Jaswinder Kaur, from Rayat Bahra College of Law, Punjab. In this article, the author shall be discussing various high courts in India and their role in monitoring COVID-19 issues in their jurisdiction and shall be discussing the scope for recommendations.
Last night my best friend died! He was only 27 years old. He had lots of dreams and was the only earning member of the family. When he found out that he had COVID-19, he got admitted to the nearest civil hospital. He got scared, but he knew he would survive. He had a short breathing problem due to which his immune system shattered. A few hours after admitting him, a nurse came to us and said they have only a few hours of oxygen left. We got numb. Anyhow, we arranged the cylinder, but it was late. The doctors declared him dead.
This story is not one of a kind. There are many stories of victims and their families which are still unheard of. India has become the hell of fire! As there is a shortage of beds and oxygen not in one, two, or three states but all over the country, the condition is the same. Many families lost their loved ones, and doctors are helpless amidst the chaos. Everyone’s eyes are towards the centre. Urgent need for an oxygen cylinder is flashing on our televisions and mobile phones. This pandemic showcased not only that our immune system is fragile, but our government policies are also weak. Our Constitution provides rights to life, the right to health, and the right to live with dignity, but the present condition violates these rights one by one.
Today total covid cases in India are 2.57 lakhs, and this number is increasing day by day. The situation has become so serious that the government has to beg, borrow and even steal to make sure that the basic fundamental and human rights of the citizens are not compromised.
Supreme Court, high courts and their ways of monitoring COVID-19 issues
Many cases are piled up in front of the High Court and Supreme Court by the families of the deceased. Many high courts and even the Supreme Court gave guidelines to the centre and state governments regarding Covid.
Bombay High Court
Maharashtra’s capital Mumbai is the most affected state in the country. No beds, ventilators, and even hospitals are burning. COVID-19 cases are rising day by day. Looking at these serious situations, the Bombay High Court said, “If you don’t feel ashamed of yourself, we are feeling ashamed of yourself for being part of such a nasty society”. The court listened to the Public Interest Litigations filed by various people that medical facilities are not provided, and about how COVID-19 patients are in bad situations.
The State Government failed to provide Remdesivir and was not able to provide oxygen to the covid affected people. The High Court interfered in the COVID-19 situation and gave certain guidelines:
- The Bombay High Court directed the centre and the Maharashtra government to file their respective replies in the management of available resources, including hospital beds, Remdesivir drug, vaccines and oxygen to tackle the Coronavirus.
- The High Court counted several issues related to the management of resources and during the proceedings, the Maharashtra government told the court about steps taken by it to tackle the increasing covid cases.
- Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice G.S Kulkarni said no person should be denied a covid test on account of the doctor’s prescription.
- Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni representing the state government told the High Court that the state was conducting Covid 19 tests providing oxygen, also making available beds in ICU and doing everything to tackle this pandemic.
- Kumbhakoni said Maharashtra was producing 1,200 metric tonnes of medical grade oxygen daily and importing liquid oxygen from other states to meet the daily demand of 1,5000MT of the life-saving gas used to treat critical coronavirus patients.
- He also said Maharashtra, the worst COVID affected state in the country was using almost 100 percent of available oxygen for treatment of patients and leaving just a minimum amount of the gas for pharma and other allied industries.
- Advocate General told the bench that Maharashtra had received 2,69,000 units of Remdesivir, a key covid-19 during which is in high demand, from the union government.
- The High Court said the centre and the state government must issue an advisory for citizens on availability and use of Remdesivir.
- The court said there had to be a portal for the availability of essential COVID-19 drugs.
- It stated, “you should realize this is an emergency. The situation is getting uncontrolled with each passing day”.
- The Bombay high court stated that the state and central government should stop depending on foreign drugs. Bombay high court said to create awareness about a suitable alternative to foreign-manufactured medicines, such as Tocilizumab, that can be used for treating COVID-19 patients.
- They also said that in the case of a shortage of Tocilizumab, the government must tell the citizens about other locally manufactured, cheap, and widely – available drugs that can be used instead.
- The High Court observes that schemes and systems are good but it is humans who are destroying them and making them worse.
- The High Court asked the state government about steps being taken to decongest prisons to prevent the spread of COVID-19 prisoners and jail staff, and prison authorities must seek the relevant magistrate court’s order on a case to case for shifting prisoners from one prison to another.
- Also, the court said that in the first wave villagers survived but now they are in danger in cities. These issues can be managed, but not in the case of a village. The villagers are not getting beds and vaccines. They have no money for private hospitals.
- The High Court said the state government should not delay in granting approvals to any proposals it receives on setting up now path labs for COVID-19 tests and pathology.
- Also, the Aurangabad Divisional Commissioner and Municipal Commissioner of all districts keep a check at crematoriums and funeral ghats to ensure that covid-19 victims and their family members are not harassed on asking to pay bribes to carry out final rites.
Allahabad High Court
- The Allahabad High Court has expressed its displeasure at the Yogi Adityanath government failure to centralize the spread of the ovid pandemic in Uttar Pradesh.
- Hearing a PIL on the ‘inhuman’ conditions at quarantine centres and the state hospitals of covid treatment, a division bench of justice Ajit Kumar and Siddhartha Varma said while ordering a lockdown was the government prerogative, it was disappointed by the measures taken since its last order, calling them an ‘eyewash’.
- The High Court appointed Nodal officers in every district of the state. These officers must report the issues being faced by people in the district and submit them before the high court. It has to be ensured that every patient who dies in hospital is cremated as per covid protocol.
- A register to be maintained of all covid 19 patients will also be prepared at the local police station Nodal officers will additionally prepare a report about the load on local hospitals and find out if hospitals are turning down patients despite having space beds.
- The High Court has also suggested enrolling more medical employees on a contract basis and deregulating the supply of medicines and oxygen in hospitals. The court has recommended increasing the number of covid hospitals in each district of the state.
- The court issued directions to ramp up the current ‘healthcare’ infrastructure in the state.
- Also include publishing a daily bulletin twice a day on the number of hospital beds in ICU, statistical details of oxygen supply, availability of life-saving drugs.
- The court issued directions to ramp up the current ‘healthcare’ infrastructure in the state.
- The court ordered that the state must ensure that every death in all covid 19 hospital’s in every district is reported to a judicial officer to be appointed by a district judge at the end of each day.
- The High Court said “It is a shame that while the government knew of the magnitude of the second wave it never planned things in advance”.
- It further stated, “If the people die of the pandemic in a large number due to paucity of sufficient medical aid it would be the government to blame which failed to counter the pandemic even after a long year of experience and learning”.
- The High Court pointed out that VIP recommendations were needed to get RT-PCR tests. Hospital admission, oxygen cylinder, etc, which is so disheartening at this hour every person’s life is important.
Ahmedabad High Court
- Gujarat is also dealing with corona cases. Lots of families lost their loved ones and this situation is getting worse day by day.
- “Concealment of accurate data would generate more serious problems including fear, loss of trust, panic amongst the public at large,” said Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Justice Bhargav Kania.
- The High Court asked the Gujarat government to direct hospitals to admit all COVID-19 patients approaching them instead of coming through 108 ambulance services.
- The bench said “lockdown is not the solution, many people would lose their meals. This is India. Why can’t we have our self-restrictions?”.
- The High Court expressed its displeasure over the state government handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, noting the entire exercise lacks “transparency” and pointed to the death of patients outside hospitals due to non-attendance by doctor.
- The High Court issued directions including setting up of laboratories in all the district:
- An accurate report of RT PCR with correct figures of positive results.
- Maintain an online portal which gives details to the availability of vacant beds and occupied beds under different categories of covid patients.
Delhi High Court
- A division bench composed of Justice Vipin Sanghai and Justice Rekha Palli directed the central government to take all possible steps for diverting oxygen produced by various industries for medical use.
- “The heart of India is weak”, the Delhi High Court told the Aam Aadmi party, “we have no more trust in you, we have lost many lives due to the unavailability of oxygen cylinders. The High Court warned the Aam Aadmi party if the government cannot manage the situation, the court will ask the centre to step in. We cannot let people die like this”, said the High Court.
- The court noted that the government has failed to check mismanagement in the distribution of medical oxygen and black marketing of oxygen cylinders and essential COVID-19 drugs in Delhi.
- The most common issues brought before the courts are the shortage of oxygen and other life-saving drugs.
Madras High Court
- Many state governments are struggling with COVID numbers, several high courts are hearing cases related to the shortage of COVID essentials.
- The High Court slammed election for failure to maintain COVID protocol, the election commission should be put up on murder charges for being so irresponsible institution.
- The bench said that the high court had offered all court buildings in T.N. and the Madras law college building next to high court building for setting up COVID care centre.
- The first bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthil Kumar Ramamoorthy gave further suggestion on an issue relating to the alleged shortage of remdesivir drug, ventilators, and beds, and division of oxygen cylinder to other states.
- The bench on curbing the sale of Remdesivir, used in COVID-19 treatment, in the black market.
- The High Court also stressed that the bodies of COVID-19 patients should be removed immediately from the hospital wards since they might demoralize other patients, the bodies should be disposed of in a dignified manner.
- The Madras high court directed the state government to ensure that the oxygen should also be provided to non-covid patients and they should also take care of the needs and concerns of the others should also be kept in mind.
The Supreme Court on COVID-19
- Chief justice S.A Bobde said “India is currently facing a national emergency-like situation”.
- The Supreme Court directed the centre to create a comprehensive panel of doctors who can provide information to citizens about steps to be taken during a pandemic.
- The Supreme Court takes suo moto cognizance of the COVID-19 situation and might take over all related cases from high courts.
- Also, those states who haven’t constituted a high power committee last year are directed to do so immediately and the Commissioner of Police Delhi shall also be a member of the high powered committee.
- The Supreme Court ordered to immediately release prisoners who were granted bail on parole last year, the authorities are directed to ensure that proper medical facilities are provided to all prisoners who are imprisoned.
- The Supreme Court takes suo moto cognizance of COVID issues on oxygen supply. Drug supply, vaccine policy concerning COVID pandemic and power to declare lockdown.
- The Supreme Court asked the centre to submit detailed data on oxygen, medical facilities, and vaccination.
- On oxygen supply: Justice Chandrachud directed the centre to submit details on the total availability of oxygen in the country, projected demand, augmented steps to fulfil the projected demand, and monitory mechanism in place to ensure the proper supply to affected states.
- On drug supply: The centre has also been asked to submit steps taken to ensure the supply of critical drugs such as remdesivir and others.
- On vaccination: The bench directed the centre to provide information on the projected requirements of the vaccine, Covishield and Covaxin are currently available for people aged 45 years and above.
The court has appointed Harish Salve as amicus curiae in the case and said it wants to see a “national plan” to tackle COVID-19.
Scope for recommendations
It’s high time to get all possible precautions to curb coronavirus. Not India but the whole world is suffering from this disease. Everyone is in danger whether adult, young or newborn. Government by various modes telling people how to handle it and how we can fight against it. From my point of view, each and everyone can help others and themselves by taking effective precautions.
COVID-19 is air transmitted. So wear proper masks available in medical shops. Various kinds of effective masks are available like surgical masks, N95 masks, etc. You can make your mask with proper care.
Washing hands frequently
Doctors have recommended washing your hand with soap properly for one minute, between your fingers and under the nails. You can even use alcohol-based hand sanitizer to lessen the effect of coronavirus. As you know, COVID-19 can live on the surface for 72 hours.
It means to keep a distance of 6 feet (2m) from other people. You can even get affected by hugging and shaking hands.
Avoid touching your face
Daily you touch many things in your surroundings. Also you don’t remember many times because this is our habit, the virus can get connected with you with your hands so stop touching your face, eyes, and nose.
Before eating any fruit or vegetable wash them under running water, CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and FDA (Food and Drug Administration) do not recommend using soap or other kinds of commercial products to wash fruits or vegetables.
These kinds of small efforts will make great changes. As it is always said, precaution is better than cure.
Whenever the centre or state government fails to take immediate steps, the high courts and Supreme Court interfere in it. This time also the high courts and even the Supreme Court gave corona guidelines and they are handling cases also related to it. People are suffering because of lack of COVID-19 vaccines and oxygen cylinders. Various high courts came forward and gave guidelines to the state and centre government. The Constitution gave us Article 21 in which we have the right to life and this right should not be violated in any circumstances. Above we have given many ways through which we can break the coronavirus chain.
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