The Patna High Court has expressed its “strong displeasure” over the absence of any comprehensive action plan of the State Government to tackle the ongoing pandemic. Due to this mismanagement, the court has sought the intervention of the Bihar Human Rights Commission.
Justices CS Singh and Mohit Kumar Shah have highlighted that inaction of the State in providing adequate health care to its citizens, particularly during the prevailing Covid-19 situation is violative of Right to Life under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
“At this stage we reiterate our view, as expressed in our earlier orders, to the effect that any inaction on the part of the State, within the meaning of Article 12 of the Constitution of India, in providing adequate health care to its citizen, particularly during the prevailing COVID-19 situation, would be violative of right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution of India”, said the Bench.
The Court also cautioned the State over allegations of shortage of oxygen supply. It said, “Serious issues have been raised about deaths taking place in various government and private hospitals because of lack of supply of oxygen. This Court cannot overlook such aspects if such allegations are true as it directly relates to a citizen’s fundamental right. If the Court reaches a conclusion that COVID patients have been or are being allowed to die because of lack of oxygen supply, the Court exercising its power of judicial review will surely intervene and pass appropriate orders in this regard.”
To handle the situation in the State, the court has directed the State Human Rights Commission to conduct surprise inspections of Dedicated Covid Hospitals (DCHs), Dedicated Covid Health Centers (DCH) and care centres to find out if adequate facilities are available in these centres and a desired level of sanitation and cleanliness is maintained.
The court further directed, “The Secretary, BHRC shall be required to submit his report of inspection of NMCH by Wednesday (21.04.2021). He is further directed to join the Court proceedings on 21.04.2021 at 4.30 p.m., a link of which shall be sent to him by the Registry.”
The High Court also observed that some extra medical staff will be deployed in hospitals in Patna for better management. It said, “In our previous orders, we had noticed acute shortage of beds in and around Patna in various hospitals, with adequate facilities, for treating serious COVID patients. We had directed the state respondents to ensure that ESIC Hospital at Bihta starts functioning immediately. We have been informed by Dr. K.N. Singh, learned Additional Solicitor General for India that five doctors, fifteen nursing staff have reached ESIC Hospital at Bihta and more doctors and nursing staff from Armed Forces are likely to be deputed in the said hospital soon.”
The Bench has also asked the Executive Director, State Health Society to inform the Court about the process of disposal of Covid testing kits in private labs, syringes used for vaccination, PPE Kits and masks.
The High Court noted that an officer of the Patna High Court died of Covid because oxygen was not available in the hospitals. Intending to take this matter as an example to examine whether Court’s intervention is needed or not, the Bench has directed the Registrar General, Patna High Court to submit an “exhaustive report to this Court explaining in detail the circumstances in which the said officer of the High Court died.”
Earlier, the High Court had held that the government failed “to keep the people of Bihar informed about availability/ non-availability of health care facilities in the State.” It noted that the State had failed to conduct sufficient tests and that the data provided by it were contradictory. Although the Bihar government’s data provides that huge numbers of beds are available with oxygen, the court observed that there is a critical shortage of medical oxygen in the State. It remarked, “This contradiction has remained unexplained”, reported SabrangIndia.
The order may be read here:
Gov’t data about available Covid beds, oxygen, medicines contradictory: Patna HC
Unregistered hospitals allowed to function as Covid hospitals, Patna HC questions move
Oxygen tanker leak kills 22 patients in Nashik
Article 21 casts duty on state to provide life saving means such as oxygen and drugs: MP High Court