State did not pay heed to Covid second wave warnings: Uttarakhand HC

The court expressed its displeasure at the government’s vague affidavit and lack of planning


The Uttarakhand High Court has berated the government for not being adequately prepared and ignoring the scientific community’s warning about the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic

Bar & Bench reported that the Bench of Chief Justice Raghvendra Singh Chauhan and Justice Alok Kumar Verma said, “The scientific community warned that the second wave of Covid-19 would hit. Unfortunately, the State did not heed the warnings… Even though the State has been reeling under the pandemic for the last one and a half years, there seems to be a lack of planning by the State to deal with the pandemic.”

In the previous hearing, the High Court had directed Amit Negi, the Secretary of Medical Health and Family Welfare, to submit a report on detailed steps taken by the government to implement the directions of the court and also manage the pandemic by May 7.

During yesterday’s hearing, the court criticised the report submitted by Mr. Negi and observed, “In places, the affidavit has been drafted very cleverly so as to scuttle this Court’s previous orders…Most basic facts have not been brought on record. Affidavit is highly vague. Although it is claimed that there are 36 private labs, neither their names nor locations have been submitted in annexures.”

The court also rejected the submission made by the government that the state’s measures to protect the right to health was subject to financial limitations. According to LiveLaw, the Chief Justice told Advocate General SN Babulkar, “In case of calamity and disaster, the state cannot raise the defence of financial limitations. State cannot say that it does not have funds. The last penny in the exchequer must be devoted to protect the lives of people…Government being the father figure of all of us, must come forward and assure the citizens that they will be protected. That is the attitude the government should have.”

The Bench reiterated that it is the State’s obligation and foremost duty to protect the lives of the people.

Further, the court reportedly passed the following directions for the State government to follow:

1. Increase the number of testing labs, especially in Haridwar. In case the number of labs cannot be increased, the State should immediately take steps for dispersing mobile testing vans. In the previous order dated April 28, the court had issued a similar direction that the number of samples that need to be taken in the large cities like Dehradun, Haridwar and Haldwani should be increased to anywhere between 30,000-50,000 per day.

2. State should consider turning colleges and hotels into isolation/quarantine centres.

3. Since there is shortage of oxygen tanks, the State should seek permission of the Centre to use oxygen produced within the State rather than being asked to transport tanks from Jharkhand and West Bengal.

4. Court had issued directions to fill vacancies in doctors and nurse positions. State must endeavour to fill these positions. Two CT scans should be installed in every government hospital.

5. Although Char Dham Yatra has been suspended, the government must ensure that it is adhered to strictly. Steps for implementation of SOPs should be worked out immediately between temple management and State.

Towards the end of the hearing, the Advocate General asked for more time to file an affidavit in this regard, reported Bar & Bench. The Chief Justice took exception to this and remarked, “Frankly speaking, we are not happy with the way the government is dealing with the situation…I am not going to buy the excuse that so many people are ill and therefore the work cannot be done. They are ill because of your shortcomings.”

The matter will now be heard on May 18.


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