Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: The Division Bench of Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli, JJ., slammed center government for its reckless attitude towards upsurging issue of non-availability of medical oxygen. The Bench came down heavily on center government and warned,

“The allocation to Delhi, which was earlier of 480 MT (since 20-04-2021), and now is of 490 MT has not been fulfilled even for a single day. In case, this order is not implemented…we make it clear that we may even consider initiating Contempt Proceedings in case of non-compliance.”

During the hearing, Dr. S. Bankata, Executive Director from Batra Hospital informed the Court that there was a delay in supply of Oxygen due to which Oxygen supply was interrupted for about an hour and a half, which had led to loss of 8 lives, including a doctor of the said hospital.

Similarly, counsel for NCT Delhi, Sr. Adv. Rahul Mehra had informed the Court that on the day of hearing itself, at 03:05 P.M. he had received an SOS message from Mr. Bidhuri, who is the officer tasked with the job of ensuring supply to hospitals in Delhi, that the reserves of the GNCTD were exhausted, and there was no supply/ minimal supply from the plants of Linde and Air Liquide. The senior counsel had expressed serious concerns over how the Capital would tide over the shortage for the day as a lot of hospitals and nursing homes had either run out of medical Oxygen, or would do so in the coming few hours.

Assessing the gravity of the matter, the Bench directed Central Government to ensure that NCT of Delhi receives its allocated supply of 490 MT positively today, by whatever means. The Bench added, considering the fact that Delhi is not an industrial State, and does not have availability of cryogenic tankers of its own which could be requisitioned under the Disaster Management Act, it falls upon the Central Government to arrange the tankers as well, so that the allocation made to Delhi could be fulfilled. The Bench ordered,

“The Central Government shall ensure availability of cryogenic tankers as well for the said supply.”

The Bench further observed that the allocation to Delhi, which was earlier of 480 MT (since 20-04-2021), and now is of 490 MT has not been fulfilled even for a single day. Hence, it warned the center government to face legal actions if the order is not implemented. Considering the harum-carum attitude of center towards Covid crises in the country the Bench made it mandatory for the concerned officers of the Central Government viz. Mr. Piyush Goyal and Ms. Sunita Dawra during the hearing on 03-05-2021. The Bench further made it clear that if the government does not wake up and comply with the directions of the Court it may even consider initiating Contempt Proceedings against it. Lastly, CGSC Mr. Amit Mahajan was directed to  ensure communication of the Order to the concerned officers.

[Rakesh Malhotra v. NCT of Delhi, 2021 SCC OnLine Del 1867, order dated 01-05-2021]


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this report together 

Appearance before the Court by:

For the Petitioners: Sr. Adv. Sacchin Puri, with Adv. Praveen K. Sharma and
Adv. Dhananjay Grover

For the Union of India: SGI Tushar Mehta, ASG Chetan Sharma, CGSC Monika Arora, CGSC  Amit Mahajan, CGSC Anil Soni, CGSC Anurag
Ahluwalia, Adv. Shriram Tiwary, Adv. Amit Gupta, Adv. Akshay
Gadeock, Adv. Sahaj Garg and Adv. Vinay Yadav

For NCT of Delhi: Sr. Adv. Rahul Mehra, ASC Satyakam, Sr. Adv. Santosh
Tripathi, ASC Gautam Narayan, ASC Anuj Aggarwal, ASC Anupam Srivastava, Adv. Aditya P. Khanna, Adv. Dacchita Sahni, Adv. Ritika Vohra and Adv. Chaitanya Gosain

Case BriefsCOVID 19Supreme Court

Supreme Court: On the issue revolving around the timely payment of salaries of doctors and health workers during the period of COVID-19, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the bench of Ashok Bhushan, R, Subhash Reddy and MR Shah, that those doctors and health workers, who are quarantined, their period of quarantine cannot be treated as leave and he will obtain necessary instructions/clarifications in that regard.

He has further told the Court that the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has passed an order on 18.06.2020 directing for payment of salaries of doctors and health workers during the period of COVID-19 on time and that five States i.e. Delhi, Maharashtra, Punjab, Tripura and Karnataka have not paid the salaries to the doctors and health workers on time to the full satisfaction. He, hence, submitted that appropriate steps in this regard shall be taken by the Central Government to ensure that salaries of doctors and health workers is released.

The Court has listed the matter on August 10, 2020 after Solicitor General sought for a week’s time in the matter.

On June 17, 2020, a 3-judge bench of Ashok Bhushan, S K Kaul and M R Shah, JJ directed the Centre to issue directions to states for payment of salaries and providing necessary quarantine facilities to doctors and healthcare workers engaged in treating COVID-19 patients. Earlier, the Court had observed,

“In war, you do not make soldiers unhappy. Travel extra mile and channel some extra money to address their grievances.”

[Dr. Arushi Jain v. Union of India, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 615 , order dated 31.07.2020]



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COVID 19Hot Off The PressNews

The National Human Rights Commission has taken suo moto cognizance of a media report stating that the healthcare workers, who are at the maximum risk to contract the corona virus infections are facing refusals/demands for high premiums to buy group Mediclaim policies.

Reportedly, as Covid-19 cases continue to rise and the government offers little clarity on insurance cover for private healthcare professionals doing non-Covid work, and there is a scramble to find the right policy.

It is further stated that while most doctors have a medical cover, the struggle has mainly been about ensuring protection for their staffers. Moreover, as mentioned in the news report there is also confusion whether the Rs 50 lakh health cover provided by the Central government for healthcare workers included private doctors, staffers and also those doing non-Covid work.

Accordingly, The Commission has issued notices to the the Chairman, Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority and the Secretary, Department of Financial Services, Insurance Division, Union Ministry of Finance calling for a detailed report in the matter within 4 weeks, positively.

Issuing the notices, the Commission has observed that in this period of pandemic, what the country needs most is proper health facilities and infrastructure. Denial of insurance claims by the companies to the Covid Warriors will definitely bring down their morale and its result will adversely affect the general public at the end. Considering the issue as a case of violation of human rights , the Commission thought its intervention necessary in the matter as the sufferers will be poor citizens who are already under trauma of the Corona virus due to lack of medical facilities.

According to the media report, Dr Sudhir Naik, in charge of the medico-legal cell of the Association of Medical Consultants (AMC) has reportedly said that no insurance company wanted to cover the Covid-warriors. He has stated that the authorities have been forcing us to keep our clinics open, but the staffers are apprehensive about working. The medical fraternity is reportedly pinning its hopes on the standard Covid-19 policy which the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) has asked all the insurance providers to design by June 15.

Reportedly, several nursing home owners in the city have been scouting for a group cover, but with little success. The companies have refused to extend even the fixed benefit covers. Here the beneficiary is paid a lumpsum on testing positive. The sum assured can vary from Rs 20,000 to Rs 2 lakh, and annual premium is relatively low.

As per news report, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) has said that a company which earlier agreed to extend a fixed benefit cover of up to Rs 2 lakh to its members, pulled out of the deal after Covid-19 cases began to rise in the state. The IMA has reportedly stated that the company has returned the premium paid by around 150 doctors who had already signed the documents.


NHRC

Press Release dt. 12-06-2020

Case BriefsCOVID 19Supreme Court

Supreme Court: A 3-judge bench of Ashok Bhushan, S K Kaul and M R Shah, JJ directed Centre to issue directions to states for payment of salaries and providing necessary quarantine facilities to doctors and healthcare workers engaged in treating COVID-19 patients. The Court directed that the said direction be issued by tomorrow i.e. 18.06.2020.

While hearing a plea filed by a private doctor raising questions on the Centre’s May 15 decision that 14-day quarantine was not mandatory for doctors, the Court asked the Centre to file a compliance report within four weeks on payment of salaries and quarantine facilities to doctors and healthcare workers and warned that non-compliance would be viewed seriously.

Doctor Arushi Jain, in her petition, had alleged that front line healthcare workers engaged in the fight against COVID-19 are not being paid salaries or their wages are being cut or delayed.

Senior Advocate K.V. Viswanathan, appearing for the petitioner submitted:

  • doctors and health workers are not receiving their salaries regularly, hence, a direction is necessary to the State Governments, Central Government and all other concerned authorities to ensure that salaries and emoluments of the doctors and health workers are timely paid, who are front-line warriors.
  • with regard to quarantine, there are no details of appropriate accommodations.
  • doctors or health workers, who are directly looking to the patients in COVID ward are not given the facility of quarantine as per guidelines dated 15.05.2020 unless they are covered by high risk exposure.

“a doctor, even with PP Kit, who deals with the COVID patients and devotes time with the COVID patients, has to be given quarantine to protect himself and his family.”

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre submitted:

  • so far as the payment of salary to the health workers and doctors are concerned, appropriate orders shall be issued by the Central Government in exercise of power under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 which may be communicated to all the State Governments and Union Territories for compliance. The said order shall be issued by tomorrow itself.
  • with regard to doctors and health workers, who are directly looking after the COVID patients and are in touch with the COVID patients, are not denied the quarantine. Looking to the requirement of doctors and health workers to manage the hospital, quarantine period should be initially for one week only and thereafter taking the profile of the health worker a decision to be taken for further period of one week

The bench directed that necessary directions be issued by union health secretary and chief secretaries of the State by tomorrow.

On June 12, the top court had observed,

“In war, you do not make soldiers unhappy. Travel extra mile and channel some extra money to address their grievances.”

It had said that the courts should not be involved in the issue of non-payment of salary to health care workers and government should settle the issue.

Senior advocate K V Viswanathan, appearing for the petitioner, had said that if doctors on COVID duty are not provided accommodation near hospitals their family/friends are exposed to higher risk of infection. He had said that doctors and other healthcare workers, who are engaged in COVID duty, run a great risk of exposure of infection without proper PPE kits and without proper accommodation, their family members are also at higher risk of infection.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, in it’s affidavit said,

“number of cases of COVID-19 are constantly increasing and at some point of time in near future, apart from existing hospitals, large number of temporary make-shift hospitals will have to be created in order to accommodate COVID-19 patients requiring admission, medical care and treatment.”

On April 8, the Court had observed that doctors and medical staff are the “first line of defence of the country” in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, and directed the Centre to ensure that appropriate PPEs are made available to them for treating coronavirus patients.

[Dr. Arushi Jain v. Union of India, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 515 , order dated 17.06.2020]

(With inputs from PTI)

 

COVID 19Hot Off The PressNews

Under the directions of Union Minister for Home Affairs, Shri Amit Shah, Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has again directed all States/UTs today to ensure adequate security to healthcare professionals, medical staff & frontline workers to prevent violence against them. Strict action must be taken against those who obstruct performance of last rites of medical professionals or frontline healthcare workers succumbing to COVID19, while discharging their services.

MHA had issued advisories to all States/UTs on 24.03.2020, 04.04.2020 and 11.04.2020, requesting them to ensure adequate protection to healthcare professionals, medical staff and frontline workers by augmenting their safety and security cover. In spite of the said communications, some incidents of violence have been reported from different parts of the country against healthcare professionals/frontline workers. It is evident that at this time, any single incident of violence against healthcare professionals is likely to create a sense of insecurity amongst the entire healthcare community.

The Supreme Court of India, in its direction on 08.04.2020, has observed that the Government of India, respective States/Union Territories and respective Police authorities should provide necessary police security to doctors and medical staff in hospitals and places where patients who have been diagnosed COVID-19 or patients suspected of COVID-19 or those quarantined are housed. Further, the Court directed to provide necessary police security to doctors and other medical staff who visit places to conduct screening of people to find out symptoms of disease.

In line with the Supreme Court directions and provisions of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, MHA has urged upon all State/UT and District authorities to invoke the provisions of the Act, or any other law in force, to take strict penal action against the offenders, who obstruct Government health officials, or other health professionals and/ or related persons, who are authorized under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, in the discharge of their lawful services.

MHA has further requested State Governments/UT Administrations to appoint Nodal Officers at State/UTlevel and at District level, who would be available 24×7 to redress any safety issue on the functioning of medical professionals. They should also take immediate and strict action in case any incident of violence takes place, it was requested.

In addition to this, States/UTs have been requested to widely publicize details of preventive measures taken and appointment of Nodal Officers, amongst the medical fraternity, including the local chapters of the IMA, as well as to the public at large, to ensure compliance at ground level.

To read the detailed letter, please click the link below:

SECURITY TO HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONALS


[Dated: 22-04-2020]

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Jammu and Kashmir High Court: A Division Bench of Gita Mittal, CJ and Rajnesh Oswal, J. flagged certain important issues with regard to the present situation of pandemic COVID-19.

Healthcare Personnel

Personnel engaged in treatment of COVID-19 patients and prevention of the infection would be working beyond the call of their routine duties and also overtime. Administration may have accounted for such a contingency.

If the above has not been done, the administration may consider the possibility of running 24 hours canteens/kitchens in al hospitals/institutions to enable provision of the necessities of the healthcare and other personnel engaged in addressing the COVID-19 issues.

Secretary, Department of Health and Medical Education look into this matter and submit a report.

In order to ensure the full attention of the personnel addressing COVID-19 issues, it is necessary that they be kept free of any personal tensions and needs.

Thus in above view it is a necessity to create a network/body of person who would attend to the needs of the family members/dependents of all personnel attending COVID-19 issues.

Direction is issued to the Secretary, Department of Social Welfare to examine and take a decision on creation of machinery for addressing the said aspect.

Lockdown

It is essential to be prepared for the possibility of a partial or a full removal of the lockdown restrictions; Preparedness of public about permissible conduct upon removal of restrictions (partial or complete); progression of the COVID-19 virus infection and life of the virus; possibility of carriers existing and infecting despite the lockdown and all related information is required.

Thus, Secretary, Health and Medical Education Department; Secretary, Social Welfare Department; Director, Information Department; Member Secretary, JK State Legal Services Authority  is directed to immediately take such appropriate action as may be required on the above.

Personal Protection Equipments

Complaints about dearth of safety kits for healthcare have been received by the Court.

Thus , Health and Medical Education shall inform this court with regard to availability of personal protection equipments for the safety of all healthcare workers.

Jammu and Kashmir Suspension of Sentence Rules, 2020

Court has asked for the urgent implementation of the above rules for grant of special parole to prisoners.

Additional Secretary to the Government, Sajad Amin Shah stated that directions have been issued to the IGP (Jammu), IGP (Kashmir) and IGP (Ladakh) to ensure that complete safety and security is provided to the personnel who are serving at all government facilities.

One of significant issue noted by the Court was that of incidents of violence against healthcare professionals.

In the current situation, medical, nursing as also paramedical students may be roped in for assisting the efforts. Violence includes not only acts against these personnel but also damage to hospitals, clinics, ambulances etc.

Judicial notice can be taken of the fact that such violence is not new. 

Such violence at this time highlights dangerous consequences which can result as huge spread of the COVID-19 infection; imperil lives of healthcare personnel as also damage to public property earmarked as at present to meet the needs of the COVID-19 infection.

Pandemic and current crisis brings to the fore the critical issue of addressing the issues of violence to healthcare personnel and damage to the property of healthcare establishments.

Court notes that 19 states have enacted their own specific laws addressing violence against healthcare professionals and establishments specifically.

Bench was pained to note that such critical matter being randomly addressed and 19 legislation already in existence in separate States with reports on matter showing hardly any prosecutions.

Further the Court stated that,

these matters would need critical attention of the Central Government as well as the Governments of Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.

Possible impact of pollen/seeds with cotton fluffs released by poplar trees in Kashmir valley.

It was submitted that this pollen remains in air for between 25-30 days and created havoc so far as respiratory diseases were concerned.

It may also have the potential to hold the COVID-19 virus and resulted in aggravation of spread of this infection as well.

The above-said aspect is to be examined by Secretary, health and medical Education.

Pilgrims allegedly stranded at Katra

Bench was informed that so far as 400 stranded pilgrims from Bihar were concerned, these persons were camping at Shiv Market/Shiv Temple opposite Jammu Tawi Railway Station at Jammu and not in Katra.

Local administration had shifted these persons to an Ashram at Jammu. Boarding and lodging of these pilgrims/persons was to be taken care of by the District administration.

According to the Shrine board, no single Yatri is stranded at Katra now.

Bench also placed a word of appreciation on the unstinted efforts of Government of Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh on COVID-19 issues.

Matter has been listed on 10-04-2020. [Azra usmail v. UT of J&K,  2020 SCC OnLine J&K 219, decided on 03-04-2020]