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Death due to lack of timely medical aid is a violation of right to life: Patna HC

The court has sought more information about rural Bihar and response from DCs about the bodies floating in Ganga

Sabrangindia 13 May 2021

Image Courtesy:livelaw.in

The High Court has asked for an affidavit from the District Commissioners of Kaimur and Buxar, Bihar with regards to disposal of the dead bodies found floating in the river Ganga in the midst of the second wave.

“The affidavit of the Commissioner of the District Buxar and Kaimur with regard to disposal of the bodies found flowing in the river Ganga be positively filed within next two working days”, read the order.

The Division Bench of Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice S Kumar have also issued directions while observing that “the government hospitals, medical officers are duty bound to extend medical assistance for preserving human life. Failure on the part of a government hospital to provide timely medical treatment to a person in need of such treatment results in a violation of his right to life guaranteed under Article 21.”

Article 21 imposes an obligation on the State to safeguard the right to life of every person and preservation of human life is thus of paramount importance, said the Bench.

Covid in rural areas

Through its order on May 10, the court had expressed its desire to take stock of things in the rural areas of Bihar. They asked for a report from the State. In response to that, the State, through Vikas Singh, Senior Counsel, expressed its reservation, submitting that “perhaps, we may exceed our jurisdiction to be a matter falling purely within the executive domain.”

But the court rejected this argument put forth by the government. “We are afraid it is not so, for as a Constitutional Court collectively, we hold the responsibility to ensure that the State’s people, regardless of their geographical location, do get timely aid ensuring no loss of human life purely on account of lack of medical health infrastructure,” said the Bench.

It further clarified that it is not venturing into a roving enquiry but is just seeking information only in the context of “peculiar geographical and demographical diversity of the State of Bihar, which has a landmass of 94,163 square kilometre with River Ganga freely passing through with almost seven tributaries, flowing both from north and south, making it a delta of the Gangetic plain. During monsoons, all low-lying areas, North of Bihar, especially in the Mithila area, are often inundated.”

Looking at the district wise breakup of the population living in urban and rural areas in the state, the Court opined that the same revealed that almost 90 percent of the population reside in rural areas.

“It is not that Coronavirus affects only the urban population. It is also not that it does not affect rich or the poor living in the rural areas. Infrastructure right from testing up to isolation must exist in the rural areas, more so in view of anticipation of the third wave, as per the experts of the Government of India, which is likely to come soon,” opined the court.

The court also believed that there is no data that indicates the actual death rate in Bihar in the second wave. “Any death, more so, in the rural areas for lack of access to a medical facility, including testing in a violation of fundamental right,” it ruled.

Directions issued

Reiterating the importance and significance of shifting the focus to the rural areas so as to ensure that no individual is deprived of the medical health infrastructure, the court stated the following:  

1. The government hospitals run by the State and the medical officers employed therein are duty-bound to extend medical assistance for preserving human life. Failure on the part of even private hospitals to provide timely medical treatment to a person in need of such treatment results in a violation of his right to life guaranteed under Article 21.

2. The public representatives nominated vide Notification dated 1st of May, 2021 issued by the Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Bihar as also the functionaries of the State under the Registration Act, Municipal Act and the Panchayat Act shall take all steps ensuring implementation of the Government policies, including immediate registration of deaths, more so in the rural areas of Bihar.

3. The State Government is hereby directed to take all necessary steps for proper implementation of the CRS, and responsibilities enunciated for units of local government under the Registration Act as also the Panchayat Act. All deaths must be reported within 24 hours.

4. Municipal authorities are directed to take steps for proper collection, treatment and disposal of waste generated from COVID patients in home isolation.

5. The Ministry of Health, Government of India/appropriate authority shall, to the extent possible, favourably consider the request forwarded by the State vide communication dated 7th May, 2021 seeking enhancement of the quota of oxygen cylinders.

6. The Chief Secretary, Government of Bihar shall file a fresh affidavit, furnishing complete information in a format (tabular chart) prepared by all the learned counsel in terms of our direction. Needful be positively done within next four working days, failing which, we shall be constrained to ask him for joining the proceedings through a digital mode.

The matter will be heard on May 13.

The order may be read here: 

Related:

Form Public Grievance Committee, submit vaccine plan for disabled and labour class: Allahabad HC
EC, courts and Government failed to see risk of polls during Covid-19: Allahabad HC
Around 140 bodies found in river Ganga, officials yet to confirm them as Covid deaths

Death due to lack of timely medical aid is a violation of right to life: Patna HC

The court has sought more information about rural Bihar and response from DCs about the bodies floating in Ganga

Image Courtesy:livelaw.in

The High Court has asked for an affidavit from the District Commissioners of Kaimur and Buxar, Bihar with regards to disposal of the dead bodies found floating in the river Ganga in the midst of the second wave.

“The affidavit of the Commissioner of the District Buxar and Kaimur with regard to disposal of the bodies found flowing in the river Ganga be positively filed within next two working days”, read the order.

The Division Bench of Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice S Kumar have also issued directions while observing that “the government hospitals, medical officers are duty bound to extend medical assistance for preserving human life. Failure on the part of a government hospital to provide timely medical treatment to a person in need of such treatment results in a violation of his right to life guaranteed under Article 21.”

Article 21 imposes an obligation on the State to safeguard the right to life of every person and preservation of human life is thus of paramount importance, said the Bench.

Covid in rural areas

Through its order on May 10, the court had expressed its desire to take stock of things in the rural areas of Bihar. They asked for a report from the State. In response to that, the State, through Vikas Singh, Senior Counsel, expressed its reservation, submitting that “perhaps, we may exceed our jurisdiction to be a matter falling purely within the executive domain.”

But the court rejected this argument put forth by the government. “We are afraid it is not so, for as a Constitutional Court collectively, we hold the responsibility to ensure that the State’s people, regardless of their geographical location, do get timely aid ensuring no loss of human life purely on account of lack of medical health infrastructure,” said the Bench.

It further clarified that it is not venturing into a roving enquiry but is just seeking information only in the context of “peculiar geographical and demographical diversity of the State of Bihar, which has a landmass of 94,163 square kilometre with River Ganga freely passing through with almost seven tributaries, flowing both from north and south, making it a delta of the Gangetic plain. During monsoons, all low-lying areas, North of Bihar, especially in the Mithila area, are often inundated.”

Looking at the district wise breakup of the population living in urban and rural areas in the state, the Court opined that the same revealed that almost 90 percent of the population reside in rural areas.

“It is not that Coronavirus affects only the urban population. It is also not that it does not affect rich or the poor living in the rural areas. Infrastructure right from testing up to isolation must exist in the rural areas, more so in view of anticipation of the third wave, as per the experts of the Government of India, which is likely to come soon,” opined the court.

The court also believed that there is no data that indicates the actual death rate in Bihar in the second wave. “Any death, more so, in the rural areas for lack of access to a medical facility, including testing in a violation of fundamental right,” it ruled.

Directions issued

Reiterating the importance and significance of shifting the focus to the rural areas so as to ensure that no individual is deprived of the medical health infrastructure, the court stated the following:  

1. The government hospitals run by the State and the medical officers employed therein are duty-bound to extend medical assistance for preserving human life. Failure on the part of even private hospitals to provide timely medical treatment to a person in need of such treatment results in a violation of his right to life guaranteed under Article 21.

2. The public representatives nominated vide Notification dated 1st of May, 2021 issued by the Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Bihar as also the functionaries of the State under the Registration Act, Municipal Act and the Panchayat Act shall take all steps ensuring implementation of the Government policies, including immediate registration of deaths, more so in the rural areas of Bihar.

3. The State Government is hereby directed to take all necessary steps for proper implementation of the CRS, and responsibilities enunciated for units of local government under the Registration Act as also the Panchayat Act. All deaths must be reported within 24 hours.

4. Municipal authorities are directed to take steps for proper collection, treatment and disposal of waste generated from COVID patients in home isolation.

5. The Ministry of Health, Government of India/appropriate authority shall, to the extent possible, favourably consider the request forwarded by the State vide communication dated 7th May, 2021 seeking enhancement of the quota of oxygen cylinders.

6. The Chief Secretary, Government of Bihar shall file a fresh affidavit, furnishing complete information in a format (tabular chart) prepared by all the learned counsel in terms of our direction. Needful be positively done within next four working days, failing which, we shall be constrained to ask him for joining the proceedings through a digital mode.

The matter will be heard on May 13.

The order may be read here: 

Related:

Form Public Grievance Committee, submit vaccine plan for disabled and labour class: Allahabad HC
EC, courts and Government failed to see risk of polls during Covid-19: Allahabad HC
Around 140 bodies found in river Ganga, officials yet to confirm them as Covid deaths

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