Delhi High Court
Case BriefsHigh Courts

   

Delhi High Court: In a public interest litigation filed by an Advocate enrolled with the Bar Council of Delhi, practicing in Delhi High Court seeking directions to Respondents to provide list of 186 private liquor vendors who were harassed by officers of Respondents and identifying officers causing such harassment and the like, a Division Bench of Satish Chandra Sharma C.J., and Subramonium Prasad J., observed that the present petition is nothing but a sheer abuse of the process of law and therefore, imposed costs of Rs. 1,00,000/- (Rupees One Lakh) to be paid to the Army War Widows Fund within a period of 30 days from today, while dismissing the petition at the admission stage itself.

On 30-07-2022, the petitioner heard a news/ statement on “India TV” Channel made by the Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi that the Central Investigating Agencies are harassing the private liquor vendors and they have been forced to close their shops. It was further stated that heavy loss was caused to the State Exchequer resulting in loss of livelihood to 176 private liquor vendors and the general public was deprived of the opportunity to purchase liquor at discounted price. Thus, the present petition was filed.

The Court noted that the prayer clause in the present PIL revealed that the petitioner wants a list of 186 private liquor vendors who have been allegedly harassed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and by the Directorate of Enforcement along with a direction be issued to the Lieutenant Governor (LG) of Delhi to identify those persons who are causing harassment to 186 liquor vendors forcing them to close their shops, thereby depriving them of their right of livelihood guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

The Court further noted that the petitioner has not named a single officer of the CBI, or of the Directorate of Enforcement who has harassed a single liquor vendor, nor has he given details of any kind of such harassment and based upon the so-called press releases/ statement made in the press, he wants a roving inquiry to be done by this Court. Thus, the present petition is nothing but a sheer abuse of the process of law and the petitioner wants a roving inquiry to be done by this Court based upon vague and absurd allegations.

Placing reliance on Janata Dal v. H.S. Chowdhary, (1992) 4 SCC 305, Dattaraj Nathuji Thaware v. State of Maharashtra, (2005) 1 SCC 590 and Tehseen Poonawalla v. Union of India, (2018) 6 SCC 72, the Court observed that Supreme Court has shown concern about large number of PIL’s flooding High Courts and Supreme Court wherein such petitions are misused to resolve personal scores, personal disputes and political rivalries.

Thus, the Court imposed a cost of Rs 1 lakh to be paid towards Army War Widows Fund within a period of 30 days from date of order, failing which, the Sub-Divisional Magistrate, New Delhi District will recover the amount as arrears of land revenue and shall transfer the same to the Army War Widows Fund with intimation to the Registrar General.

[Narinder Khanna v. Govt of NCT of Delhi, WP (C) No. 12762 of 2022, decided on 08-09-2022]


Advocates who appeared in this case:

Petitioner-in-person

Mr. Santosh Kumar Tripathi, Standing Counsel (Civil) with Mr. Arun Panwar, Mr. Siddharth Krishna Dwivedi, Mr. Pradeep & Ms. Mahak Rankawat, Advocates for respondent N1/GNCTD.

Mr. Rahul Raj & Mr. Anil Dutt, Advocates for respondent 2/KVIC.

Mr. Arkaj Kumar & Mr. Padmesh Mishra, Advocates for respondent 3/LG.

Ms. Suman Chauhan, SPP with Ms. Samiksha Mittal & Ms. Anubha Bhardwaj, Advocates for respondent 4/CBI.

Mr. Anurag Ahluwalia, CGSC with Mr. Danish Faraz Khan, Advocate for respondent 5/ Directorate of Enforcement.


*Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has put this report together.

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Delhi High Court: The Division Bench of Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli, JJ., expressed that

It serves no purpose for anyone to cause any obstruction in the smooth flow of much needed Medical Oxygen. Stoppage of tankers by one State would have snow balling effect, and would eventually adversely impact the concerned State as well.

RTPCR Testing

Bench stated that with respect to the stated head, Court had already directed the Centre to take steps in order to prioritize the clearance of imported equipment and all that was required to be able to set up and operate the RT-PCR testing centres.

Chetan Sharma, ASG brought to Court’s notice the directions issued by Centre to all customs offices with regard to the above stated and Solicitor General stated that Centre would call for a report.

To the above, Bench stated that the report be called for as to how many such imports were pending and how many have been cleared along with this, the duration for which the imports are held up at the ports along with the reasoning.

Court called for the above report within 3 days and in a sealed cover.

Medical Oxygen

Solicitor General read out certain orders and communications that had been issued from time to time so as to augment the production, distribution and supply of medical oxygen throughout the country, as also in respect of NCT of Delhi. Mr Tusha Mehta, SGI submitted that GNCTD has called for supply of Oxygen from the JSW Group. With regard to the distribution of medical oxygen, the same was being undertaken by the Central Government and the States/Union Territories should not be asking for the same directly from any producer.

JSW Group’s production and distribution of oxygen is also being monitored by the Centre.

Bench permitted the GNCTD to procure the cryogenic tankers from JSW Steel and Centre shall intervene in case of any obstruction from any quarter in the procurement of the cryogenic tankers by the GNCTD. Adding to this Court stated that However, so far as the allocation of oxygen produced by the JSW Steel Plants is concerned, the same shall be undertaken on the instructions of the Central Government.

Alok Aggrawal, Maharaja Agrasen Hospital had made efforts to contact officers of the GNCTD to offer one cryogenic tanker but n response came in, for such offers, Court directed Mr Aggrawal or his client to interact with Chief Secretary, Delhi, Mr Vijay Kumar Dev who offered to look into any such offer that may be made, so that tankers may be procured for the purpose of securing supplies of Medical Oxygen to Delhi.

INOX has been supplying medical oxygen produced by itself as per the allocation made by the Central Government as well as it is lifting the allocation made to another producer from its production plants.

INOX started moving their four cryogenic tankers from Rajasthan to service the transportation arrangement from the plants of Air Liquide. However, their said tankers have been detained by the State of Rajasthan. Mr Mehta submitted that strict action will be taken and it shall be ensured that tankers are freed so that they can proceed to their destination for the purpose of filling and supplying liquid medical oxygen.

Bench remarked that it expects and hope that the State of Rajasthan shall honor the orders passed by the Central Government as well as the Orders of this Court.

Any intervention by anyone in the plan put in place by the Central Government for the supply of medical oxygen in the country, at this stage, would tantamount to endangering hundreds of human life, if not more.

Medical Oxygen | Set Mechanism

High Court elaborating more on the aspect of obstruction of medical oxygen stated that,

since the Central Government is mindful of the needs of all the States and Union Territories, and the distribution plan has been worked out by taking into account the needs of all the States and Union Territories, if any concerns arise before any State, they should be addressed to the Central Government, for which the Central Government has already created a Virtual Central Control Room – on which the Nodal Officers of all the States are represented.

Mr Siddharth Jain, Director, M/S INOX placed the difficulty that the oxygen suppliers have been facing which is in respect to a lot of paperwork to be done on their part as required by the GNCTD. He further added that employees serving in the oxygen production and supply industry have been affected with COVID and an increase in paperwork would impede the efficiency of the suppliers. His suggestion was that a meeting be held between all the suppliers, GNCTD Officers, hospital representatives, nursing homes in Delhi and the refilling units so that modalities could be worked out for a smooth supply of oxygen.

For the above issue, Chief Secretary, GNCTD agreed to the meeting.

Non-Availability and Consequent Black Marketing of Oxygen Cylinders

 The stated issue has been taking place rampantly in the NCT of Delhi. Bench directed the refillers to be present before the Court and provide requisite information to the GNCTD, further the Bench directed the refillers to ensure that the refilled cylinders are supplied in terms of the directions of the GNCTD and all such supplies are accounted for, failing which, Court shall be compelled to take strict action against them.

Lastly, the Court concluded the order saying that,

We are hopeful that with the infrastructure for transportation of liquid Oxygen been augmented, the supplies to Delhi would considerably improve in the coming days.[Rakesh Malhotra v. GNCTD,  2021 SCC OnLine Del 1828, decided on 26-04-2021]

Patna High Court
Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Patna High Court: The Division Bench of Chakradhari Sharan Singh and Mohit Kumar Shah, JJ., expressed that:

[Order dated 15-04-2021]

“Constitutional Courts are duty bound to invoke the powers of judicial review and cannot afford to overlook palpable violation of fundamental rights of life and equality of citizens enshrined under Articles 21 and 14 respectively of the Constitution of India.”

On noting the alarming surge in COVID-19 Cases in the State of Bihar and the lack of facilities and healthcare system to meet the challenges arising out of the surge in cases as reported in print media I.A. No. 1 of 2021 was registered under the Orders of Chief Justice and has been placed before this Court in the Public Interest Litigation.

Newspaper reports, clippings of which are on record, portray a gloomy picture which reflected that on one hand there is a surge in COVID cases on an alarming proportion and on the other end, patients have been reportedly running helter-skelter to find beds in government hospitals.

It has also been reported that, COVID Beds in government hospitals are full in Patna. Newspaper Indian Express reported, based on experience of an individual that patients without contact face umpteen difficulties in getting admission even into private hospitals authorized to treat COVID patients.

Newspaper reports, though depict a very alarming and scary picture of the entire situation, having potential to expose the ground realities of health care system in the State, nonetheless, such reports cannot be made the sole basis for this Court to interfere and issue directions, exercising powers of judicial review under Article 226 of the Constitution of India. 

Bench further remarked that the Court is mindful of the fact that providing healthcare facilities and meeting challenges arising out of spike of COVID cases in the State is an executive function of the State and Constitutional Courts do not step in for the said matters.

Additional Advocate General, Amrit presented certain data and statistics showing availability of infrastructure in various parts of the State of Bihar to take care of COVID patients. To this Court stated that the said data presents a different picture altogether in comparison to the one being reported.

Prima facie, Court opined that it is not satisfied with the said depiction.

Bench added that it has transpired that the COVID Care Centres (CCC), Dedicated COVID Health Centres (DCHS) and Dedicated COVID Hospitals (DCH) are ill-equipped.

Press Briefing by the Government

Adding more to the above, High Court stated that people do not have the requisite information about the availability of the facilities being provided by the State Government, hence Court directed the Principal Secretary, Health Department to bring the said information in public domain through media and ensure that at-least once every day at a fixed time, a press briefing on behalf of the Government is made disclosing facts, illustratively, the number of COVID cases, the infrastructure which are available at various places in the State to admit and treat COVID patients and other cogent information which are required to be disseminated to the general public in public interest.

Black Marketing of Oxygen Cylinders

During the course of hearing, another fact that was noted was that there is scarcity of oxygen in various hospitals in the State of Bihar resulting into a kind of rush among the people of State to procure the same which as a consequence is creating a situation of black marketing.

To the above, Mr Amrit informed that a High Level Committee has been into the said matter and a solution would soon arrive for the same.

In response to Court’s query, Mr Amrit informed that once a person is tested positive after RT-PCR Test, State Government provides the patient with a COVID kit. He also added that earlier, State Government laboratories were not furnishing “Ct” value in the RT-PCR test reports, but now the same is being disclosed.

Elaborating more on his response, Court added that CT Scan Machines/facilities and Pulmonologist are available in Dedicated COVID Hospitals only, which are 11 in number. and steps are being taken to optimise the healthcare facilities to meet the recent challenges.

Bench stated that State Government may consider utilizing the facilities available in the premises of the newly established Medanta Hospital in PPE mode at Kankarbagh.

Assistance of Central Government

Court requested D. K.N. Singh, Additional Solicitor General of India to seek instructions from the Central Government regarding the issues which have emerged, particularly in relation to providing facilities at ESIC Hospital, Bhita, Patna and enhancing facilities at All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Patna as also the mode and manner in which the Central Government is willing to help and assist the State Government to enable it to tide over the prevailing situation on account of the alarming surge in COVID- 19 cases in the State of Bihar.

State Government is directed to ensure that all Dedicated COVID Health Centres are equipped with portable X-ray machines as quickly as possible and initiation of process to acquire CT Scan machines for dedicated COVID Health Centres in each District of State of Bihar should also be considered.

[Order dated 17-04-2021]

Bench noted in its 15th April Order that on one hand, COVID patients were running helter-skelter for admission in COVID Care Centers/Dedicated COVID Care Centers/Dedicated COVID Hospitals, figures presented by the Health Department represented that a large number of the beds available for COVID patients were unoccupied.

To the above, Court stated that no acceptable logic came forth to explain the startling phenomenon, as admittedly patients in the state are being denied admission because of unavailability of beds, though lack of awareness among affected people about the availability of such facilities is being cited as one of the reasons for the mad rush to Patna Hospitals out of a sense of fury.

Another aspect of the data that puzzled the Bench was that admittedly there is a shortage of medical oxygen in the State, but the data of the State Government depicted that huge number of beds with oxygen are available and again the said contradiction remained unexplained.

  • Principal Secretary in the present hearing informed the Court of compliance of certain directions issue don 15th April, 2021.
  • Court directs the State Government to ensure that the portable X-ray machines are positively acquired and installed
  • in compliance of this Court’s observations and direction on 15.14.2021, so as to make the residents of Bihar known about the available infrastructure, the Department has initiated a system of daily media briefing, disclosing all relevant information relating to location wise availability of facilities and infrastructure for treating COVID patients.
  • CT values are being mentioned in the RT-PCR Reports.
  • Steps have been taken for emergency procurement of Remdesivir injection by invoking Section 50 of the Disaster Management Act.
  • Rajendranagar Eye Hospital, which is a government hospital, has been decided to be utilised for admitting patients suffering from COVID-19.
  • Steps have been taken to increase number of beds in All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Patna (for short AIIMS, Patna) to 250 and Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences to 100
  • Manoj Kumar, the Executive Director, Bihar State Health Society, informed this Court that on an average 40,000 RT-PCR tests are being done in the State of Bihar per day, and steps to establish 9 more laboratories are being taken.
  • Apart from requisitioning liquid gas from the neighboring State of Jharkhand, the State Government and the Central Government are taking sincere measures for installation of Pressure Swing Absorption (PSA) plants in the hospitals connected with various medical colleges in theState of Bihar.

Executive Director, Bihar State Health Society submit a report explaining the progress regarding installation of PSA plants on the next day. He may also explore the possibility of procuring High Flow Nasal Canula (HFNC) and submit a report inasmuch as the same is reported to be effective in improving oxygenation amongst patients with acute hypoxemic respiratory failure.

Respondents to step up the speed/pace of RT-PCR tests in the State.

Court took note of the fact that State- Respondents have failed to regulate testing of such persons who are arriving in the State of Bihar from other States, who have the potential of spreading the disease.

“…minimum what is expected of the State-Respondents is to take all possible measures so as to ensure that persons coming from outside the State are either made to undergo rapid antigen test or they are able to show on the basis of the test reports available with them that they are not COVID positive. In case a person is found to be COVID positive, steps should to taken to ensure that he can reach a designated place for isolation or treatment with adequate and desired care and caution.”

Court while directing the Respondents-State of Bihar to submit a report regarding the available manpower and other infrastructure at listed the matter on 19-04-2021.[Shivani Kaushik v. Union of India, Civil Writ Jurisdiction Case No. 353 of 2021, decided on 17-04-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

For the Petitioner/s: Shivani Kaushik (In Person)

For the UOI: Dr K.N. Singh (ASG)

For the State: Anjani Kumar, AAG-4

For the Respondent 5: Mrs Binita Singh

For Respondent 6: Shivender Kishore, Sr. Advocate

For PMC: Prasoon Sinha