Gau HC | Verify availability of separate rooms before directing home Isolation; HC directs State 

Gauhati High Court

Gauhati High Court: The Division Bench of Songkhupchung Serto and S. Hukato Swu, JJ., directed the State government to verify whether the family has sufficient rooms and other facilities in the house where the infected person can be isolated before directing a person to stay under home isolation. The Bench stated,

“Taking into account the economic status of the people by and large it may be that only few privilege people who belong to higher economic strata may have the facilities for such isolation in their own homes.”

Issues before the Bench

On 05-05-2021, the instant PIL was taken up on Suo Moto and the Bench had directed the State to file an affidavit on the following 6 issues;

  1. A district wise list of number of infected persons as per category such as critical, serious, mild etc.
  2. Number of hospital beds category wise i.e. ventilator facilities with oxygen facilities etc. made available across the State/district
  3. Number of manpower made available district wise specially for treatment of Covid persons
  4. Contingency plans
  5. Availability of oxygen, medicine district wise
  6. How many persons have been given vaccine and what is the plan to reach everyone in the State.

Home Isolation

Noticing the disturbing trend on the ever-increasing number of Covid-19 infected persons especially, in the rural areas, the Bench stated that during the first wave of pandemic the State Government had set up quarantine centers for isolation of Covid positive populace; even the villagers had set up such centers on their own, but no such facilities were made available in the second wave. Instead, home isolation for Covid positive persons had been put to practice by and large. However, said the Bench, taking into account the economic status of the people it may be that only few privilege people who belong to higher economic strata may have the facilities for such isolation in their own homes. Therefore, the Bench directed the government that before directing a person to stay under home isolation, the Surveillance teams constituted by the Government should first see/verify whether the family has sufficient rooms and other facilities in the house where the infected person can be isolated. The surveillance team was directed to stick a notice on the gate of the house stating that the inmate(s) of the house are under isolation to avoid visiting of people. The Surveillance team was also directed to ensure that none of the inmates of such house venture out till directed time and their medical and other needs should be met by the Government.

The Bench directed the State to designate places for isolation for those families who have no facilities for home isolation. It was further directed that the State shall maintain proper sanitization and high standard of hygiene at such centers and all medical needs of the patients should be met.

Covid Testing

Regarding Covid testing, the Bench stated that testing is very important in our fight with the pandemic. Unless people are tested, there is no way one can know whether they had been infected with the virus or not. Opining that the earlier the infected persons are identified further spread of the virus by such persons can be prevented, the Bench stated,

Since we are in the midst of the virus spreading far and wide even in the rural areas, we are of the view that fees should not be charged even from persons who come on their own for testing.

Observing the number of testing on daily basis in the state and noticing that RT-PCR testing facilities were available only at 3 places i.e. at Dimapur, Kohima and Tuensang, the Bench directed the State to ramp-up testing and explore feasibility of establishing testing facilities even at other strategic places.

Vaccination

On the issue of vaccination, the Bench observed that as per the affidavit so far 1,81,443 persons (45+ years of age inclusive of frontline and health workers) had been vaccinated as on 11-05-2021, and out of that 51,650 had been given 2nd dose. The Bench stated,

“In a State where the population is 22.8 lakhs the vaccination done so far is precious too little and it is still too far from the target. Therefore, while not belittling the efforts made by the State Government and all those who are working day and night, we are constraint to urge that the vaccine be made available at the earliest and vaccination drive also be done on war footing so that people of the State can be vaccinated at the earliest.”

Hence, the Bench directed the State to increase fixed days for vaccination in a week for the age group of 18 to 44 years to make the vaccine available to those who come forward at the earliest. Further, noticing the reluctance of people to take vaccine, the Bench directed the State to take appropriate steps in coordination with Doordarshan, All India Radio and other print and digital media to spread awareness so that any fear or reservation that is in the mind of the people would be removed and the vaccination drive would go on smoothly and the same is completed at the earliest.

Other Directions

Additionally, the Bench issued the following directions:

  1. State should make special arrangements to reach out to the aged and physically challenged persons with the vaccine.
  2. Noticing the CHC had no doctors inspite of demand of the people, the Bench directed State to do everything at their command and post east some Doctors at the CHC concerned and post the required number of Doctors and other man powers within a period of 5 days.
  3. The required equipments, medicines and other requirements should be made available in all the Government hospitals/PHCs/CHCs in the districts.
  4. On the issue of crematoriums charging exorbitantly high for burials for Covid affected bodies, the Bend directed the government to take the burden at least for those who cannot afford. The government was also directed to take appropriate action to keep a check on burial charges.

[Kohima v. State of Nagaland, In re.,  2021 SCC OnLine Gau 1170, order dated 24-05-2021]


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief. 

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