[Covid-19 Upsurge] J&K HC| “Consider making additional budgetary allocation for financial assistance of lawyers’ family”; HC tells Center 

Jammu and Kashmir High Court: The Division Bench of Pankaj Mithal, Cj., and Sanjay Dhar, J., had taken suo moto action for initiating this PIL concerning Covid-19 pandemic; as the Union Territory was in the spate of second wave of Covid-19 Pandemic.

Amicus curiae, Mrs Monika Kohli, had expressed anxiety that as lawyers everyday both in Jammu and Srinagar Wings of High Court are getting infected by Covid-19 and they have not been vaccinated, there is threat to their life which needs to be addressed immediately by getting them vaccinated. She had further submitted that the families of the lawyers who have died recently due to Covid-19 may be provided some financial assistance.

Similarly, the issue of short supply of Remdesivir and deficiency of doctors and nursing staff as well as the oxygen to treat the Covid patients had been highlighted before the Court. In some writ petitions, the petitioners had insisted that the government be called upon to provide complete statistics in regard to the above items and to make operational the oxygen plants which are under erection for some time. The petitioners had also highlighted the shortage of ventilators.

The directions were also sought with regard to supply oxygen cylinders for use by the patients who are not admitted in the hospitals but are otherwise suffering from serious ailments and are home quarantined. And that some mechanism should be evolved so that supply of oxygen to the persons who are getting treatment at home of their serious ailments or those who have been home quarantined due to non-availability of beds in hospitals, may continue uninterrupted.

The Advocate General, Sh. D.C.Raina had submitted on behalf of government that there is no problem of supply of oxygen and there is no ban on use of oxygen for patients at home. They can have the supply of oxygen on medical prescription through Nodal officers. Regarding vaccination of lawyers, it was submitted that there is no difficulty in getting the lawyers above 45 years of age, registered and vaccinated in a group. But the lawyers between the age group of 18 to 45, as per the procedure provided by the government of India, have to get themselves registered online. Once they are registered, they will be vaccinated as per their turn or on the slot available.

The Court remarked that it is conscious of the fact that government is taking due steps for controlling the pandemic and to provide full medical support. However, still much more is required to be done and directions of the Court are primarily needed in respect of registration and vaccination of lawyers, supply of oxygen to patients at home, deficiency of ventilators, oxygen, beds and medication including remedisivir; and doctors, if any.

Insofar as the registration and vaccination of lawyers above the age of 45 years is concerned, the Bench directed the Registry of the Court to discuss the issue with the Finance Commissioner, Health and Medical Education to get some date fixed for the registration and vaccination and to carry out vaccination in groups either at some suitable place in the High Court Campus or Medical College or Hospital within a week. With regard to vaccination of lawyers between the age group of 18 to 45 they were advised to get themselves registered for vaccination and the government was directed to provide them vaccination facilities on priority at the earliest, if possible within a period of two weeks from the date of registration. The Bench said,

In case any family of the lawyer is in need of financial assistance either on account of medical expenditure or due to the death, the family members may approach the Bar Association with an application.

On the application being forwarded, the Court would speedily consider it and endeavor to provide maximum financial aid out of the welfare fund. At the same time, government is also directed to consider for making some additional budgetary allocation, as the funds available may not be sufficient to meet the requirement.

To resolve difficulty faced in the supply of oxygen to the patients at home, the Financial Commissioner, Health and Medical Education is directed to nominate adequate number of Nodal Officers for each city and to publicise their full details with contact number etc so that such patients or their relatives may approach them with proper medical prescription for the supply of oxygen and once they are so approached they shall take immediate and adequate steps to ensure the supply of oxygen where it is found to be needed without causing any harassment to anyone.

Lastly, the Bench stated, we hope and trust that no one would make any effort to draw any mileage out of it so as to reduce it to a personal interest litigation or a publicity interest litigation and the media would also act cautiously in the best interest of the public and country.

[Court on its own motion v. Government of India, 2021 SCC OnLine J&K 334, decided on 05-05-2021]

Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this report together 

Appearance before the Court by:

Counsels for the Petitioners: Sunil Sethi, U.K.Jalali, K.S.Johal, Abhinav Sharma, Pranav Kohli, Rohit Kapoor and Ajay Bakshi

For Government of India: AG D.C.Raina Dy.  AG K.D.S. Kotwal

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