Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench of R.K. Deshpande and Amit B. Borkar, JJ., while addressing a petition, held that,

“…neither the Central Government nor the State Government can keep the fate of the frontline workers hanging and compel them to perform their jobs and discharge the duties without fear or assurance of safety and protection of their own life and the lives of the family members.”

“All asymptomatic frontline workers working in hospitals & containment zones in Vidarbha region entitled to be tested for COVID-19 on RT-PCR  method.”

COVID-19 has spread its tentacles all over the world, which is fighting a war against it. The population of the infected persons is on steep rise and the three major challenges are as follows:

  • to prevent the spread-over of the disease Coronavirus
  • to detect the persons infected with the disease and its source, i.e. contact tracing, and
  • to treat the patients of the disease Coronavirus.

The present petition had been filed seeking to direct ICMR to frame appropriate appropriate guidelines for conducting the Rapid Antibody Test and RT-PCR Test of doctors, nurses, paramedical staff, pharmacists, police personnel, etc. (frontline workers) attending the COVID-19 facilities and accordingly to take such tests to safeguard their lives, which is the guarantee under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

Another relief is to release all the COVID-19 suspects admitted in the Isolation Wards / Quarantine Wards having tested negative in RT-PCR Test with immediate effect.

The other reliefs claimed include the fixation of price of the Rapid Antibody Test Kit for COVID-19 and to supply it to all the private and government hospitals and nursing homes with a direction to take the first step of screening of non-COVID patients before admitting in the hospital.

Petition also sought the directions in respect of home quarantine and reservation of 50% of beds for COVID-19 patients in all the registered private hospitals and nursing homes.

Rapid Antibody Test of the frontline workers

It is the contention of the petitioner that the test should be undertaken in respect of every person in the containment zones.

Bench in regard to the above aspect stated that,

What we find is that even if the Rapid Antibody Test shows positive result, it is not the conclusive test to hold that the patient is infected with the disease. Similarly, if the test shows negative result, still it cannot be said that the person is not infected with the disease.

According to the respondents, the only conclusive test to determine as to whether a person is infected with the disease is the RT-PCR Test.

Thus in view of the above, Court did not find any point in directing the authorities on the point of Rapid Antibody Test of the frontline workers.

To release all COVID-19 suspects admitted in the Isolation Wards/Quarantine Wards having tested negative in the RT-PCR Test

Commissioner, Nagpur Municipal Corporation made a statement, wherein the following was stated:

“For hospital isolation patient can be discharged after 10 days of symptom onset and no fever for 3 days. There will be no need for testing prior to discharge.”

Thus, in view of the above statement Court did not give any further directions in the above-regard.

Home Quarantine and to prevent contamination of COVID-19 and Reservation of 50% beds in private hospitals

For the above relief sought by petitioner, Court stated that it is a policy decision which is to be guided by instructions issued by ICMR, Centre and State Government.

Further, the ICMR guidelines already include testing of health-care workers and it is critical to understand that there is globally a very limited availability of testing reagents/kits.

Thus, the contention of the petitioner that the RT-PCR Tests should be conducted on frontline workers, also cannot be accepted by the Court.

Further the High Court stated that,

COVID-19 disease of Coronavirus is symptomatic as well as asymptomatic. It may be that an asymptomatic patient carries the disease.

Hence, there cannot be any distinction between all symptomatic contacts of laboratory confirmed cases, including those of health-care workers and of asymptomatic direct and high risk contacts of health-care workers with the laboratory confirmed cases.

Thus, all frontline workers coming in contact of laboratory confirmed cases are entitled to be tested on RT-PCR method.

Commissioner, Nagpur Municipal Corporation, is the “Empowered Officer” under the provisions of Epidemic Diseases Act by the State Government and accordingly the notifications are issued from time to time by him to secure the object and purpose of the enactment.

Bench also observed that, by invoking the provisions of the Epidemic Diseases Act and the Disaster Management Act, the State and Central Government have taken upon themselves an obligation and the responsibility under Article 47, as a part of guarantee under Article 21 of the Constitution of India to save and protect the lives of the people of this nation, more particularly the frontline workers, from COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Pandemic Outbreak.

Life of frontline workers is more precious as they are warriors and saviours, compromising their own life at the stake to save the lives of others.

As observed by the Single Judge Bench of the Court, the Division Bench of this Court also endorses and confirms that the State owes its duty to the frontline warriors to take additional steps or measures, even if the guidelines do not envisage such testing.

High Court also stated that “State is be duty bound to take additional measures and ensure the minimization of the risk to the medical, police personnel and all frontline workers, to protect the fundamental right to life under Article 21 read with the duty under Article 47 of the Constitution of India.”

Therefore, to summarise the order, following has been passed by the bench:

  • all asymptomatic frontline workers working in the hospitals and the containment zones in the entire Vidarbha region, shall be entitled to be tested for COVID-19 disease or Coronavirus on RT-PCR method on expressing their willingness, if they are found to be in direct and high risk contact of laboratory confirmed cases.
  • ICMR directed to frame policy and prescribe protocol for periodical testing of frontline workers

In the above view, petition was disposed of.

[Citizen Forum For Equality v. State of Maharashtra, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 695 , decided on 01-06-2020]

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Allahabad High Court: A Division Bench of Shashi Kant Gupta, and Saurabh Shyam Shamshery, JJ., asked the State Government to ensure that persons who have tested negative and completed their quarantine period should be released from the Quarantine Centres.

Present matter was registered on a letter received by an Advocate, Shaad Anwar seeking release of members of Tablighi Jamaat quarantined in Uttar Pradesh.

Pursuant to Court’s Order dated 21st May, 2020, Advocate Shaad Anwar furnished the details of 45 members of Tablighi Jamaat who were sent to the quarantine centre within the  State of Uttar Pradesh.

The said matter was again taken up on 29th May, 2020 by which State was directed to furnish all the details pertaining to the members of Tablighi Jamat, who were quarantined, released after completing the quarantine period or have yet not been released despite completing tenure of quarantine. Further the State was also asked to give reasons for not release of such persons.

Update in the matter

State in today’s hearing provided the details that, total of 3001 Indians as well as 325 foreigners who were the members of Tablighi Jamaat were quarantined.

Further, all the 3001 members of Tablighi Jamat, who were Indians, have been released after competing the quarantine period, however, 21 members out of them have been detained in Jail, as such, none of the members of the Tablighi Jamat are in Quarantine Centers.

Additional Advocate General, Manish Goyal submitted that members of Tablighi Jamaat who were quarantined in the centres within the State of U.P. have returned to their respective States barring a few who have made their own private arrangements for stay.

Thus, in view of the statement made by the Additional Advocate General Court accepted the stand of State, however it would be open for the petitioner to approach the appropriate forum in case it discovers later on that some members of Tablighi Jamat are still detained in the Quarantine Center despite completing the requisite period of quarantine.

In a parting remark, Court added that,

Persons, who have completed their quarantine period and have tested negative can not be further detained in the Quarantine Centers against their wishes. It would be in violation of personal liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

Thus, State Government is directed to ensure that persons who have completed their quarantine period be released from the Quarantine Centres provided they have tested negative.

Bench also directed the Chief Secretary, State of Uttar Pradesh to set up a three members committee in every district to ensure smoother, greater and more effective functioning of the Quarantine Centers.

With the above observations, petition was disposed of.[Shaad Anwar v. State of U.P., 2020 SCC OnLine All 682 , decided on 30-05-2020]

Uttarakhand High Court
Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Uttaranchal High Court: A Division Bench of Sudhanshu Dhulia and Ravindra Maithani, JJ., directed for the use of rapid antibody tests for surveillance purpose at border points.

Court stated that presently the efforts that are being made by the State Authorities at the borders of Uttarakhand are not sufficient to check the return of persons who are coming more rapidly in ever increasing numbers.

“…many of them may be infected with the virus.”

The above was stated by the Court only after noting the fact that COVID-19 positive cases have increased in number in places like “Betal Ghat” in Nainital, Uttarakashi, Tehri, Almora and many other interior hill districts.

Court on observing that on borders only thermal screening and general clinical examination is being done, said that it is not a sufficient measure and more can be done in this regard.

Thus Court directed the following after discussion with Advocate General S.N. Babulkar assisted by Chief Standing Counsel, Paresh Tripathi, Assistant Solicitor General of India, Rakesh Thapliyal:

  • At each border point, State Government shall establish quarantine centres. All such returnees who are coming from red zones shall be kept for a period of one week. Out of these quarantined persons, those who have necessary symptoms, as per the guidelines of ICMR, shall be tested for RT-PCR.
  • Although rapid antibody test has not been approved by ICMR for diagnostic purposes, but since the result of this test is available in much less time, such tests can be used for surveillance purposes alone.
  • Secretary,Health, Government of India has fairly admitted that this test can be done on an experiment basis at border points and subject to its success or failure will be implemented further or discontinued.
  • ICMR has approved a testing kit, called “Elisa” Kit, under Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme, which can be made available to the State Government. Such tests have already been performed in District Pauri Garhwal of Uttarakhand. Let it be done for surveillance purposes in other districts as well.

Thus, in view of the above, Court asks Advocate general to file a progress report in regard to the above stated points.

Matter to be listed on 02-06-2020. [Sachdanand Dabra v. UOI, 2020 SCC OnLine Utt 229 , decided on 20-05-2020]

Jharkhand High Court
Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Jharkhand High Court: A Division Bench of Dr Ravi Ranjan, CJ and Sujit Narayan Prasad, J. while addressing the present petition enlisted a series of questions to be responded by the State Government.

Indrajit Sinha, Advocate through a letter raised his concern with regard to the issue that doctors and supporting staffs who are responsible to take care of quarantined persons at Khelgaon and RIMS have not been provided with Personal Protective Equipment.

Rajiv Ranjan, Advocate General in the above regard assured that sufficient number of Personal Protective Equipments are being supplied though initially there was a dearth of the same but soon in a week sufficient of them would be available.

Thus, bench asked response to following questions from the State Government:

(i)  Whether State Government has any positive figure regarding the number of persons returned or coming from outside to the State of Jharkhand during the period of lockdown or even one week prior to that including foreign nationals and whether they have been screened or are being screened properly?

(ii)  How many of them have been quarantined at quarantine centres and how many of them have been quarantined at their respective homes?

(iii)  How many doctors and support staffs have been engaged for taking care of quarantined persons in the State of Jharkhand at different quarantine centres of the State of Jharkhand including the homes of quarantined persons?

(iv)  How many Personal Protective Equipments have already been supplied and how many are in reserve with as we have been informed by the counsel including learned Advocate General and the Assistant Solicitor General of India that this Personal Protective Equipment is only a one time use equipment?

(v)  How many of the screened persons have been found positive with the Coronavirus?

(vi)  How many Testing Kits are available with the State Government and how many of them have already been supplied to the various centres of the State?

(vii) How many ventilators are available in the State of Jharkhand and how many would be required to cater the present crisis?

(viii)  Whether the quarantine centres including the persons who are quarantined at home, sufficient security measures have been taken by the State so that they do not come in the contact with the persons of the locality?

(ix)  Whether sufficient basic amenities, medical equipment, medicines and food etc. are being provided to them?

Matter has been listed for 07-04-2020. [Court on its own motion v. State of Jharkhand,  2020 SCC OnLine Jhar 319, decided on 03-04-2020]