Uttaranchal High Court: The Division Bench of Raghvendra Singh Chauhan, CJ. and Alok Kumar Verma, J., dealt with the petition which came up in pursuance to order dated 07-07-2021. All the affidavits submitted were taken on record.

It was informed to the Court that there were 8,590 Isolation Centres which have been established and that State Government had directed the district administration to analyze the influx of tourists during the weekends at the tourist spots in their respective districts, and to cap the number of persons permitted to visit such tourist destinations keeping in mind its capacity and its geographical conditions after the Court had directed in the previous order dated 12-07-2021. However the affidavit was silent with regard to the steps which were required to be taken by the police against the erring tourists.

Next affidavit dealt with the operationalisation of COVID Care Services for Children and Adolescents. According to the data, at the peak, there were about 10,000 cases which were reported in Uttarakhand. The total number of beds required for children at the peak of the surge would be 600; the total number of ward beds required for children would be 360; and the total number of High Dependency Unit (HDU)/Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds required for children would be 240. It was informed to the Court that State was well-equipped to tackle any challenge that may come in its way in the wake of the third wave of COVID-19 pandemic. It was further informed that, presently, the number of COVID-19 cases in the State was on the decline.

In case of availability of Ambulances it was informed that there were 272 ambulances in the Dial-108 Emergency Service and out of those, 54 ambulances were Advanced Life Support (ALS) Ambulances, and the remaining 218 were the Basic Life Support (BLS) Ambulances in the State. State Government has already sent requisition and a proposal to the Central Government for buying 41 more ALS ambulances.

It was submitted that there were large number of vacancies in the cadre of Medical Officers and the selection process has already commenced; 451 Medical Officers have been selected, out of which 250 Medical Officers have already joined their duties.

In relation to availability of vaccines it was submitted that State has received three lakhs vaccines from the Central Government and State was well equipped to vaccinate its people.

The affidavit was silent about the any information relating to emergence of Delta variant in the State. It was brought to the notice of the Court that although the State Government had made a public announcement that it is increasing the stipend being paid to the intern Doctors, the matter relating to the amount to be paid to the intern Doctors was “still under consideration of the Government”.

It was further pointed out that despite the existence of the Uttarakhand Anti-Littering and Anti-Spitting Act, 2016, the said Act was not being implemented by the Nagar Palikas, the Municipal Corporations and the Municipalities for ensuring hygienic conditions of the towns and villages. It was further added that there is no incentive scheme launched by the State Government, which will applaud those entities, which continue to abide by the SOPs. Since, there is no encouragement or appreciation by the State Government of those entities, which do abide by the SOPs, such followers of SOPs are disheartened when they see others, who are going scot-free while they violate the SOPs.

The Court issued certain directions keeping in mind the above submissions:

(i) Mr. Amit Negi, the learned Secretary, Medical Health and Family Welfare, is directed to inform this Court with regard to :

 (a) the availability of paediatric ventilators and paediatric wards available in the Government Hospitals;

(b) with regard to the steps taken, if any, for filling up the vacancies of Staff Nurses, Lab Technicians, Female Health Workers (ANMs), and the present status of the selection process, if already initiated;

(c) with regard to either the presence, or the discovery of the Delta Plus variant in the State; and

(d) with regard to the 300 samples, which were sent to the NCDC lab at Noida, and whether any case of Delta Plus variant has been discovered in those 300 samples, or not? (ii) The State is directed to take a decision with regard to the increase in the stipend of the intern Doctors as expeditiously as possible, and preferably before the next date of this case. Moreover, the State is directed to ensure that the stipend is paid to the intern Doctors on time, rather than with delay.

(iii) The State is further directed to enforce the Uttarakhand Anti-Littering and AntiSpitting Act, 2016, and to issue the necessary directions for the implementation of the same for the benefit of the competent authorities under the Act.

(iv)The State is directed to initiate a campaign for removing any superstition, suspicion, or misinformation that people may have with regard to vaccination for COVID19. Simultaneously, the State is directed to increase the number of vaccinations being carried out throughout the State.

(v) The State is directed to instruct all the District Magistrates to discover the number of physically challenged persons within their jurisdiction, who may be unable to come to the “Near to Home Vaccination Centres”. As and when such persons are discovered by the District Magistrates, it shall be the duty of the concerned District Magistrate to ensure that those physically challenged persons, who cannot possibly leave their homes, are inoculated by the medical staff at their homes. The steps so taken by the District Magistrates shall be informed to this Court by the next date. Moreover, the District Magistrates are directed to ensure that in case any camps were to be held for the benefit of the physically challenged persons, the date, the time, and the place is informed well in advance to the community at large by the use of print and electronic media. The necessary arrangements at the camps should be made to ensure that comfortable accommodation is provided to the physically challenged persons, and their other needs such as food, water and availability of toilets are met by the Civil Administration, or by the Medical Health Department.

(vi) The State is also directed to reconsider its decision of withdrawing the 25% reservation of beds in the private Hospitals for the weaker sections of the society. Therefore, the State should reconsider whether it should withdraw the order dated 25.07.2021, or not?

(vii) Mr. Amit Negi, the learned Secretary, Medical Health and Family Welfare, and the State are directed to consider the Audit Report vis-à-vis the condition, the capacity, and the lack of infrastructure of the Ambulances, which are attached with the District Hospitals. Mr. Amit Negi should also inform this Court with regard to the steps taken for filling up the lacunae pointed out in the Audit Report by the next date.

The Counsel for the petitioner had filed an application wherein he had sought the continuation of the Stay Order dated 28-06-2021 passed by this Court, whereby this Court had stayed the opening of the Char Dham Yatra submitting that the stay was granted by this Court only for a period of four weeks, and since the said period of four weeks was over, the SLP filed by the State Government, against the said order, before the Hon’ble Supreme Court has become infructuous. He prayed that since the conditions continue to be as hazardous as ever, and considering the fact that even the Central Government and the ICMR are constantly speaking about ensuring that people do not congregate in large numbers for religious purposes the stay order must continue.

The Court directed that the ban on Char Dham Yatra would continue till the Supreme Court pronounces its judgment in the said SLP.

Matter to be taken up next on 18-08-2021.[Sachdanand Darbal v. Union of India, Writ Petition (PIL) No. 58 of 2020, decided on 28-07-2021]

Suchita Shukla, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

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