[COVID-19] Utt HC | State to establish Real Time Portals for informing public about availability of beds, oxygen cylinders and flow-meters; HC lays down directions

Uttarakhand High Court

Uttaranchal High Court: The Division Bench of Sri Raghvendra Singh Chauhan, CJ and Alok Kumar Verma, J., while addressing the present matter expressed that,

“…every single town of the State must endeavour to fight against the pandemic and to ameliorate the condition of the public at large.”

Petitioner’s Counsel, Abhijay Negi made the following suggestions:

  • Since the availability of beds is critical information the State of Uttarakhand should also try to create a Real-Time Portal, whereby the availability of beds in each hospital can be informed to the people on an hourly or two-hourly basis.
  • On 26-04-2021, the District Magistrate, Dehradun had issued a list of oxygen suppliers. However, a further inquiry has revealed that out of the ten oxygen suppliers, indicated by the learned District Magistrate, only three of the oxygen suppliers have oxygen gas available with them. Therefore, the learned counsel prays that the District Magistrate, Dehradun should be directed to correct the said list, and to publish the corrected list for the benefit of the people at large.
  • A large number of persons need to be helped while they are quarantined at home. Therefore, the Asha Workers and the NGOs, which are willing to undertake the task, should be permitted to operate in areas demarcated by the District Magistrates, where the Asha Workers and the concerned NGO can look after the essential needs of the patients and their family members. For this purpose, the counsel suggests that the District Magistrates should be directed to hold fortnightly meetings with the Asha Workers, and the NGOs working within their jurisdictions.
  • Although oxygen may be available, but there is a lack of availability of cylinders and flow-meters. Therefore, the counsel suggests that even a Real Time Portal with regard to the availability of oxygen, cylinders, and flow-meters should be made available to the public at large.
  • Since there is a shortage of the Remdesivir, there is black-marketing of the said medicine. According to the counsel, the problem of black-marketing can be solved by affixing QR Codes, and by scanning the QR Codes. Moreover, the Drug Inspectors should be directed to carry out inspection of the Drug- Stores to ensure that the Remdesivir is neither hoarded, nor sold by over-charging the customers. In case the Drug Inspectors do discover that Remdesivir is either being hoarded, or being over-charged, they should be directed to take strict action against the concerned Drug- Store.
  • Lastly, the counsel suggested that since a large number of persons have recovered from Covid-19, the Government must make concerted efforts to motivate such persons to donate their plasma. For, plasma therapy has proven to be extremely successful in combating the pandemic. Moreover, since there is only a single plasma bank available in the State, the Blood Banks should be encouraged to collect the plasma in each city/town of the State, and the collected plasma should be made available to the hospitals working within the cities/towns in order to carry out plasma therapy.

S.N. Babulkar, Advocate General for the State of Uttarakhand submitted that already the State had been combating the pandemic on a war footing, therefore it may not be possible for the State to immediately implement the suggestions made above.

Analysis, Law and Decision

“…State must endeavour to save the lives of as many people as possible.”

Bench stated that the State must provide the real time-critical information to its citizen and should co-ordinate with other States, such as Telangana and Rajasthan, where the software’s have already been created for informing the public about the critical information.

High Court laid down the following directions:

  • State shall consider the possibility of seeking necessary software from other States, and of establishing a Real-Time Portal for such critical information to be disseminated to the public at the earliest.
  • List dated 26-04-2021, published by District Magistrate, Dehradun was flawed, hence the DM is directed to correct the same and to immediately inform the public in District-Dehradun with regard to the availability of oxygen with the suppliers available there.
  • District Magistrates are directed to conduct fortnightly meetings with the NGOs and Asha Workers working within their jurisdictions, to demarcate the areas for the NGOs, or to demarcate a particular segment of the society, who are looked-after by the NGOs. The civil administration should cooperate with the NGOs for catering to the needs of the people.
  • Moreover, the District Magistrates are directed to employ the Asha Workers, who would be in a position to cater to the needs of the people of the demarcated areas. It is for the District Magistrates to strategize the means, the ways and the manner, in which the Asha Workers and the NGOs can be employed to fulfil the needs of the people immediately.
  • The competent Authority under the Drugs Act directed to instruct the Drug Inspectors to inspect the Drug Stores functioning within their jurisdictions, and to ensure that there is no shortage, or over-charging of Remdesivir. The Drug Inspector concerned should ensure that QR Codes are affixed on each packet of Remdesivir. In case any pharmacist is discovered to be hoarding, or selling Remdesivir over the permissible price, the Drug Inspector concerned shall take action against the pharmacist concerned, but strictly in accordance with law.
  • The Government should endeavour to motivate the people to undertake plasma donation. Since there is a single plasma bank, the Government should also endeavour to convince the Blood Banks to collect plasma in each city/town, and to disburse the same for plasma therapy to the hospitals, which are functioning within each city/town.
  • Advocate General to submit an interim report with regard to the issue whether the directions given by this Court by this order are implemented and the extent upto which these directions are implemented by the State.

Concluding with the decision, Bench hoped that the above directions would be implemented in toto within a period of 1 month.

“…there is a distinct possibility that the pandemic may continue for many months to come.”

Matter to be listed on 10-05-2021.[Anu Pant v. State of Uttarakhand, 2021 SCC OnLine Utt 432, decided on 28-04-2021]

Advocates before the Court:

Counsel for the petitioner:  Abhijay Negi, Advocate.

Counsel for the respondents: S.N. Babulkar, Advocate General with C.S. Rawat, Chief Standing Counsel for the State.

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