Madras High Court: S. Vaidyanathan, J. dismissed a petition filed for a direction to both the Union and T.N. Governments to increase a number of private hospitals to provide medical aid to the Corona infected patients instead of confining them in carriages for treatment, on the ground of lack of sanitation and infrastructure.

The petitioner contended that both the Central and State Governments, instead of adding infrastructure facilities in private hospitals, have chosen to provide treatment to Corona affected persons in carriages for the reasons best known to them and those carriages would not have been maintained with proper sanitation, thereby leading to a health hazard to patients, who are going to be confined therein.

After hearing the submissions made by the Railways, the Union, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the State and its Health Department, the High Court found that the Government is to going to use carriages only as isolation wards and not hospitals for the “present” and they are preparing for untoward incidents that may arise as in USA, England, Italy, Spain, France, etc. The Railways categorically submitted that coaches, which are going to be used for accommodating mildly and very mildly Corona infected persons, will be moved to particular places and villages having no place for isolating them to ensure maintaining social distancing. Such converted coaches will not be provided with any ventilators for giving treatment to patients, clearly meaning thereby that the Government have no idea to substitute coaches for private hospitals.

Applauding the effort of Government and Railways, the Court stated:

Prevention is better than cure. In case of emergency in future, the Corona affected patients cannot be made to run from pillar to post to isolate themselves, in case they do not find suitable places / beds for isolation and therefore, with the vast vision, the Government has decided to convert coaches as mobile isolation wards to meet the emergent situation, which cannot be faulted with. The coaches can be easily detached for the purpose of isolation in order to maintain social distancing, than a pucca constructed building.

The Court was also of the view that the person like the petitioner should understand that he should not always make hurdles to the remedial measures taken by the Government and he must be slow in filing such type of petitions, which will create a kind of desperation and vexation in the Government machinery and slow down the process.

Noting that the petition appeared to have been filed only with intent to gain publicity and it has no public interest, the Court held that the Policy decision taken by the Government for conversion of coaches cannot be blindly interfered with by this Court, unless it is perverse or illegal, as it involves the interest of public at large and this Court cannot sit on the administrative side and express its view in respect of conversion of coaches. Also, while deciding the petition, the Court made some important discussions and observations:

Increasing number of private hospitals

The Court said that it cannot issue a blanket direction to the Government to increase the strength of private hospitals to treat Corona infected persons and in that event, the hospitals, which have been constructed violating the sanctioned building plan, may also seek for regularization of the plan on the ground that they were given permission by the Government to treat Corona patients. Moreover, insofar as private hospitals are concerned, it cannot be

expected that all are always service oriented, as the administration of certain private hospitals has already gone into the hands of Corporate agents/money mongers and by using the present scenario, they will certainly attempt to mint money, instead of providing proper and good care to patients.

Doctors, nurses, police, last grade employees, and officials

Expressing profound appreciating for their services, the Court observed that if the Doctors do not fall prey to exploiting private hospitals, their profession is the best in the world and their noble services are exploited by handful of private hospitals for their benefit by extending peanuts to them. Of course, there are always a few bad nuts in any profession and the medical profession is not an exception. It said:

In this critical situation, the yeomen services that are being rendered by Doctors to Covid patients cannot be let slip from memory forever and this Court really extends its profound appreciation to Doctors, Nurses, Police, Last Grade Employees of Corporation and the Officials of the Health Department.

Converting private colleges and hostels for accommodating migrants and roadside dwellers

A Single Judge is not empowered to comment anything on the matter, pending before the Division Bench. It cannot be lost sight of the fact that after normalcy is restored, the parents will be reluctant to permit their children to study in those colleges/stay in the hostels, thinking that those places ought to have been used for isolating Corona affected persons and in that event, the privates colleges would incur financial loss and the loss cannot be recovered from anyone, much less the Government, as the Government itself is in severe financial crisis due to unforeseen pandemic outbreak. Moreover, it is very difficult to fumigate structured buildings, whereas it is very easy to fumigate Railway coaches, which are ambulatory in nature and the people, who are very sick can easily be transferred to higher centres.

Article 21 of the Constitution

The petitioner, in the midst of argument, drew reference to Article 21 to state that the decision to confine Corona affected persons amount to violation of liberty guaranteed under that Article. On this issue, the Court said that the petitioner must realise that:

Covid Virus does not know any Law, much less Article 21 of the Constitution of India and it will invariably affect rich and poor, stronger and weaker sections irrespective of caste, creed and religion and therefore, the said contention is not acceptable.

Lessons to be learnt and post-Corona World Order

In his own words, Justice Vaidyanathan said:

Corona Virus teaches several lessons to everyone. There cannot be any difference of opinion with regard to the fact that human beings cannot wage a battle against Nature and it is the Nature that will always win the war and we, being human beings are only mortals. I am sure that this Virus will change the entire World Order and survivors of this generation could see the differences between post Corona and pre Corona impact in all over the World.

Injunction & penal liability against videographing online court proceedings and exposing on the web or telecasting

Before parting with the order, the Court emphasised that though Court proceedings are conducted through Zoom Video Conference by utilising the services of private service providers on account of the national disaster of pandemic outbreak, it should not at any cost be videographed and left exposed on the open web and in such an event, appropriate action will be taken against persons, who are responsible for such misdeed and will be punished under the penal provisions. Further, no Court proceedings shall be telecast without taking prior permission either from the Chief Justice and the concerned Judge/Judges.

Concluding, the High Court was of the view that the direction sought for in the petition cannot be issued and if any negative direction is issued in this case, that will reduce the energetic services being rendered by the personnel of various departments and therefore, the writ petition was liable to be dismissed. [M. Munusamy v. Union of India,  2020 SCC OnLine Mad 915, decided on 09-04-2020]

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