COVID-19 | J&K HC |Incidents of violence against healthcare professionals; Critical attention of Centre as well as Governments of Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh

Jammu and Kashmir High Court: A Division Bench of Gita Mittal, CJ and Rajnesh Oswal, J. flagged certain important issues with regard to the present situation of pandemic COVID-19.

Healthcare Personnel

Personnel engaged in treatment of COVID-19 patients and prevention of the infection would be working beyond the call of their routine duties and also overtime. Administration may have accounted for such a contingency.

If the above has not been done, the administration may consider the possibility of running 24 hours canteens/kitchens in al hospitals/institutions to enable provision of the necessities of the healthcare and other personnel engaged in addressing the COVID-19 issues.

Secretary, Department of Health and Medical Education look into this matter and submit a report.

In order to ensure the full attention of the personnel addressing COVID-19 issues, it is necessary that they be kept free of any personal tensions and needs.

Thus in above view it is a necessity to create a network/body of person who would attend to the needs of the family members/dependents of all personnel attending COVID-19 issues.

Direction is issued to the Secretary, Department of Social Welfare to examine and take a decision on creation of machinery for addressing the said aspect.

Lockdown

It is essential to be prepared for the possibility of a partial or a full removal of the lockdown restrictions; Preparedness of public about permissible conduct upon removal of restrictions (partial or complete); progression of the COVID-19 virus infection and life of the virus; possibility of carriers existing and infecting despite the lockdown and all related information is required.

Thus, Secretary, Health and Medical Education Department; Secretary, Social Welfare Department; Director, Information Department; Member Secretary, JK State Legal Services Authority  is directed to immediately take such appropriate action as may be required on the above.

Personal Protection Equipments

Complaints about dearth of safety kits for healthcare have been received by the Court.

Thus , Health and Medical Education shall inform this court with regard to availability of personal protection equipments for the safety of all healthcare workers.

Jammu and Kashmir Suspension of Sentence Rules, 2020

Court has asked for the urgent implementation of the above rules for grant of special parole to prisoners.

Additional Secretary to the Government, Sajad Amin Shah stated that directions have been issued to the IGP (Jammu), IGP (Kashmir) and IGP (Ladakh) to ensure that complete safety and security is provided to the personnel who are serving at all government facilities.

One of significant issue noted by the Court was that of incidents of violence against healthcare professionals.

In the current situation, medical, nursing as also paramedical students may be roped in for assisting the efforts. Violence includes not only acts against these personnel but also damage to hospitals, clinics, ambulances etc.

Judicial notice can be taken of the fact that such violence is not new. 

Such violence at this time highlights dangerous consequences which can result as huge spread of the COVID-19 infection; imperil lives of healthcare personnel as also damage to public property earmarked as at present to meet the needs of the COVID-19 infection.

Pandemic and current crisis brings to the fore the critical issue of addressing the issues of violence to healthcare personnel and damage to the property of healthcare establishments.

Court notes that 19 states have enacted their own specific laws addressing violence against healthcare professionals and establishments specifically.

Bench was pained to note that such critical matter being randomly addressed and 19 legislation already in existence in separate States with reports on matter showing hardly any prosecutions.

Further the Court stated that,

these matters would need critical attention of the Central Government as well as the Governments of Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.

Possible impact of pollen/seeds with cotton fluffs released by poplar trees in Kashmir valley.

It was submitted that this pollen remains in air for between 25-30 days and created havoc so far as respiratory diseases were concerned.

It may also have the potential to hold the COVID-19 virus and resulted in aggravation of spread of this infection as well.

The above-said aspect is to be examined by Secretary, health and medical Education.

Pilgrims allegedly stranded at Katra

Bench was informed that so far as 400 stranded pilgrims from Bihar were concerned, these persons were camping at Shiv Market/Shiv Temple opposite Jammu Tawi Railway Station at Jammu and not in Katra.

Local administration had shifted these persons to an Ashram at Jammu. Boarding and lodging of these pilgrims/persons was to be taken care of by the District administration.

According to the Shrine board, no single Yatri is stranded at Katra now.

Bench also placed a word of appreciation on the unstinted efforts of Government of Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh on COVID-19 issues.

Matter has been listed on 10-04-2020. [Azra usmail v. UT of J&K,  2020 SCC OnLine J&K 219, decided on 03-04-2020]

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