The Telangana High Court has sought a plan of action from the State Election Commission on the conduct of polling of local municipalities and the steps being taken to prevent spread of Covid during polling as well as counting. The bench of Chief Justice Hima Kohli and Justice B Vijaysen Reddy also issued few other directions such as conducting audit of oxygen supply, ramping up testing, recording deaths and vaccination of the elderly and disabled.
Elections of two Municipal corporations and 5 municipalities are scheduled to be conducted on April 30 and the campaigning for the same concluded on April 28. The court observed that no plan was placed on record to manage crowds on polling date, during counting and when the results will be declared, even though the court had directed so on the last date of hearing.
The court said that there is genuine apprehension that the polling will turn out to be supre spreaders. The court thus directed that notice be issued to the State Election Commission and ordered that the Commission should file an affidavit by April 29 informing the court of the plan of action for managing crowds at polling booths as well as on counting day and declaration of results.
After the court was informed by the government that between April 1 and April 23 about 4.39 RT-PCR tests were conducted in the state, the court remarked that the state continues to lag in ramping up testing , though this court has been repeatedly emphasising the importance of RT-PCR testing.
The government told the court that 341 Covid deaths had occurred from April 1 until April 23. However, the veracity of this number was disputed by counsels appearing for petitioners stating that the state is window dressing the figures. It was alleged that when the figures declared by state showed discrepancy with figures declared by district bulletins, the latter were discontinued. The court directed every district to resume updating the daily bulletin relating to the number of tests conducted, the positivity rate, the number of recoveries and the number of deaths.
The court also directed that the minutes of the meetings of the Expert Committee should be filed with the next affidavit filed by the state. The court asked the state to reactivate the HITAM app to guide people in home quarantine so they don’t rush to hospitals with mild symptoms.
The court pointed to the difficulty faced by people whose kin dies due to Covid and is unable to find transport to crematorium/burial grounds. The court thus, directed the state to assign another toll free number for calling for a hearse with ease.
The court also directed the state to submit details of the number and capacity of cremation and burial grounds in the highly infected districts, and directed that these grounds should maintain a display board to display the number of bodies cremated/buried each day.
The court expressed its disappointment that the state did not comply with its order to issue a directive to all hospitals to not wait for the RT-PCR report if the symptoms are present. Also, the Centre had failed to file an affidavit in relation to supply of oxygen and Remdesivir drug to the state, so the court has sought the same on the next date.
The court directed that the state should arrange for vaccination of senior citizens and persons with disabilities at the institutions, rather than transporting them to the centres in order to reduce the risk of them contracting Covid. The court stated that vaccination of destitutes, orphanages, prisoners should also be carried out.
The court further directed that oxygen audits be carried out to ensure there is no wastage or diversion of supply. The court also directed that strict action be taken against those not following social distancing and flouting the norm of wearing a mask.
The court directed the State Election Commission to file its affidavit on April 29 as also the state to file its affidavit on the same day.
The complete order may be read here: