“We are at pain in observing that death of Covid patients just for non-supplying of oxygen to the hospitals is a criminal act and not less than a genocide by those who have been entrusted the task to ensure continuous procurement and supply chain of the liquid medical oxygen,” noted the Allahabad High Court in the suo motu Covid crisis Public Interest Litigation (PIL). It further asked, “How can we let our people die in this way when science is so advanced that even heart transplantation and brain surgery are taking place these days?”
A Bench of Justices Ajit Kumar and Siddhartha Varma noted the stories which went viral on social media showing poor citizens begging for oxygen cylinders “to save the lives of their near and dear ones and harassment meted out to them by district administration and police administration.”
“The news was also viral that five patients had died in ICU of a new trauma centre of Medical College, Meerut on Sunday last. Similarly, news was also being viral that one Sun Hospital, Gomti Nagar, Lucknow and another private hospital at Meerut had taken their hands off the admitted Covid patients only for the reason that oxygen supply was not made even after demand. We find these news items showing a quite contrary picture to one claimed by the Government that there was sufficient supply of oxygen,” observed the court.
Taking into account the ground situation in Uttar Pradesh, the court directed the government to immediately take remedial measures. The court said, “The District Magistrate, Lucknow and District Magistrate, Meerut are directed to enquire into the matter of such news items within 48 hours and submit their reports on the next date fixed respectively. They are also directed to appear before the Court online on the next date fixed.”
The court also considered the submission made by Raghav Dwivedi, the counsel that questioned the preparedness of the Government to deal with the current surge of Covid-19 in the face of inadequate public health infrastructure. He told the court that the State has acute shortage of Remdesivir not only in Government hospitals but also in private hospitals and the referral letter system to be obtained from the Chief Medical Officer and the District Magistrate of the concerned district so as to make available Remdesivir had “further complicated things.” Since there was no supply of Remdesivir to the private hospitals except on a reference being made through the Chief Medical Officer in the District, those admitted in the private hospitals were not being administered Remdesivir.
Advocate Anuj Singh informed the court that though the government has created a portal to show availability of Level-2 and Level-3 beds in Covid wards and ICUs in various hospitals, both private and government, the data fed for display in the portal was not correct. The court had asked him to dial the number during the hearing and it was found that data submitted by the government was incorrect.
“During the course of hearing, we asked Sri Anuj Singh to dial the number again of Hari Prasad Institute of Medical Sciences, Lucknow, to know exactly as to whether the data was correct or not and as to whether the reply as was received earlier by Sri Anuj Singh remained same, Sri Anuj Singh, dialed the number again and again and the line was showing busy, however, ultimately he had been able to connect and reply was that there was no Level-2 & Level-3 bed available, whereas on the online portal, during the course of hearing of the case, was showing that there were vacant positions of beds in both Level-2 and Level-3 category”, recorded the order.
The Bench categorically noted the unavailability of resources in the State, despite the government’s promises. “This state of affairs that we have come to know about the management of online portal created by the Government today casts shadow upon the Covid Hospital Management more so, in the face of the fact that the Government all through had been claiming that there were sufficient beds in various hospitals and even in the last affidavit, they showed that there were about 17614 isolation beds and 5510 ICU/ SDU beds in the various private hospitals in the State and there was no scarcity.”
The court also recorded the demise of a fellow brother judge who was left unattended in a Lucknow Hospital, “We have been informed that late Justice V.K. Srivastava, was admitted initially in the morning of 23rd April, 2021 in Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, Lucknow but he was not taken care of till evening and it was only around 7:30 pm when his condition deteriorated, he was placed on a ventilator. It was on the same night he was shifted to Sanjay Gandhi Postgraduate Institute of Medical Sciences, Lucknow, where he was in ICU for five days and ultimately succumbed to the Covid- 19 infection.”
Additional Advocate General, Manish Goyal, has been directed to file an affidavit bringing on record the treatment given to late Justice Srivastava at Ram Manohar Hospital and to also explain why he was not taken immediately to Sanjay Gandhi Postgraduate Institute of Medical Sciences, Lucknow, in the morning of April 23.
The court also took strong exception to the response submitted by the State Election Commission (EC) after the Court had, on previous occasion, asked for an explanation on the death of the polling agents and officers due to the Covid-19 during the course of Panchayat elections in the State.
“From the recitals as have come up in the letter dated 28th April, 2021, we find that emphasis was more upon the correctness of the news item of which we had taken judicial notice than verifying the number of deaths. We make it clear that any slackness on the part of the Election Commission on this issue will not be tolerated”, said the court.
The Court also noted that even during the counting of votes of Panchayat elections, Covid protocol and guidelines were flouted. It said, “People gathered in huge numbers at the counting centres and both the Election Officers and Police administration had completely failed to ensure the compliance of Covid guidelines.”
The Court recorded that the Election Commission in a case before the Supreme Court had given an undertaking on April 7, that counting will be supervised through CCTV cameras to be installed at the designated counting centres and those who were in charge of the counting centres would be held responsible for any lapse regarding compliance of Covid-19 guidelines.
Last week the Supreme Court had also given permission to hold the Uttar Pradesh Panchayat Elections and allowed the State government to continue with the counting process.
While disposing of the matter, the apex court had said that the parties would be at liberty to approach the Allahabad High Court in case of issues which may arise later. The top court has also placed on record the undertaking given by the State Election Commission through a counsel, that the CCTV recording at the designated counting areas and centres will be done and duly preserved.
In view of the same, the High Court on May 4, directed the State Election Commission to produce CCTV footage of the designated counting areas and centres both in the form the footage print and also pen drive for the districts of Lucknow, Prayagraj, Varanasi, Gorakhpur, Ghaziabad, Meerut, Gautambudh Nagar and Agra.
“We make it clear at the same time that in case if the Commission itself finds from the CCTV footage that there has been clear violation of the Covid- 19 protocol and guidelines, it would come up with an action plan in that regard”, ordered the court.
The matter will be heard again on May 7.
The order may be read here
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