Case BriefsHigh Courts

Karnataka High Court: A Division Bench of Abhay S. Oka CJ. and Ashok S. Kinagi J., while partly allowing the present petition, discussed the powers and obligations of the State Election Commission and the limited intervention of the State Government in exercise of such powers.

Background

By this petition under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, the petitioners have sought a writ of mandamus for enjoining the second respondent; the State Election Commission (for short ‘SEC’) to conduct elections to 6015  Grama Panchayats in the State of Karnataka before the expiry of five years term, as provided in clause (3) (a) of Article 243E of the Constitution of India. Apart from seeking the Writ of Mandamus, the challenge is also made against the order passed by the SEC on 28-05-2020, postponing the elections to all the Gram Panchayats in the State, owing to an ‘extraordinary situation’ created by the spread of COVID – 19. In its statement of objections filed on 30-06-2020, the SEC relied on the case of Kishansing Tomar v. Municipal Corporation of Ahmedabad, (2006) 8 SCC 352, where it was held by the Supreme Court that certain man-made calamities or natural calamities, which could prevent the authorities from holding elections can be treated as ‘exceptional circumstances’. It was then pleaded that COVID – 19 has created such extraordinary circumstances, that calls for postponement of the elections. Additional objections were filed to reiterate that all steps taken were in compliance with the statutory powers of the SEC and that there is no intention of delaying the elections for an undefined period. The State Government, echoing the same stand in its affidavit said, that there will be approximately 2,95,64,498 voters in the Grama Panchayat elections and the number of candidates may  be around 2,50,000. There is a likelihood of candidates and voters not strictly following the social distancing norms and failing to comply with the other standards released by the Ministry of Health, and therefore, it shall be in the interest of the public health and governance, to postpone the conduct of elections for the time being.

 Contentions

Shri Ravivarma Kumar, Senior Counsel appearing for the petitioners has referred to 73rd Constitutional Amendment. He pointed out that the entire object of the amendment was to ensure that the State  Government should not interfere with the local self-government and Panchayats. He further invited the Court’s attention to Article 243K of the  Constitution of India which lays down that the SEC is vested with the powers of superintendence, direction, control and preparation of electoral rolls as well as the conduct of elections of the Panchayats.

K. N. Phanindra, Senior  Counsel appearing for the SEC submitted that fixing of the schedule of elections and issuance of the calendar of events is within the exclusive domain of the SEC and it is an independent power of the SEC. He submitted that when it comes to elections to Panchayats and Municipal bodies, the SEC enjoins the same status as that of the Election Commission of India. He further pointed  out the steps taken by the SEC in this regard and submitted that tentative schedule of election has already been produced in a sealed cover along with the memo. He pointed out that in the meeting held between the SEC and the executive authorities, the majority of the Deputy Commissioners were of the view that elections should be held during November or  December, 2020.

Shri Prabhuling K. Navadgi, Advocate General for the State relied on the decision of the Supreme Court in K.S. Puttaswamy (Privacy-9J) v. Union of India, (2017) 10 SCC 1, and Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India, (2018) 10 SCC 1, arguing the need to achieve a balance between compelling State Interest and public health and the concept of Transformative Constitutionalism.

Observations

Drawing difference between the powers of SEC and the State Government with respect to conduct of elections, the Court observed, The SEC is an independent body created under the Constitution and the SEC must function independently of the State Government in exercise of its powers of superintendence, direction and control of Panchayat elections. The State Government has no control over the SEC in these matters. In fact, as held in the case of Kishansingh Tomar, the State is duty bound to abide by the directions of the SEC in the same manner in which it is under a mandate to follow the directions issued by the Election Commission of India during the election of Parliament and State Legislature.  In  fact, the  SEC while conducting elections of panchayats or Municipalities enjoys the same status which is enjoyed by the Election Commission of India for conducting elections for Parliament and State Legislature.”

With respect to the discretionary power of the SEC to decide of ‘exceptional circumstances’ to postpone the elections, the Court remarked, “(…)it is for the SEC to take a call and take a decision at its discretion on the existence of the exceptional circumstances. But SEC cannot altogether ignore the constitutional mandate. To meet  a  particular  contingency, the SEC can hold elections in a phase-wise manner.”

Dismissing the State’s argument of not being able to provide machinery for the proper conduct of elections, the court said, The stand of the Government cannot be accepted inasmuch as, when it comes to providing necessary staff for the conduct of elections, the State Government does not come into picture. It is for the Hon’ble Governor to provide requisite staff to the SEC.”

 Decision                 

Allowing writ of Mandamus, the Court held, “It is only in very exceptional circumstances that the SEC can conduct elections after expiry of the term of Panchayat. Whether such exceptional circumstances exist or not is a matter within the exclusive domain of the SEC. The State Government plays no role in deciding whether such exceptional circumstances are in existence. For deciding whether such circumstances are in existence, it is always open for the SEC to  consult the Government on factual aspects; We, therefore, direct the State Election Commission to finalize the schedule of elections of  Grama  Panchayats.”[KC Kondaiah v. State of Karnataka, WP No. 7987 of 2020, decided on 13-11-2020]


Sakshi Shukla, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Chhatisgarh High Court: P. Sam Koshy, J. quashed the impugned orders/resolutions being contrary to law.

The facts of the case are that the petitioner company is the largest coal-producing company of India having 100% shares vested with the Government of India, having mines spread over different districts of the State. The State Government in the exercise of powers conferred under the relevant Act has framed Rules i.e. “Terminal Tax (Assessment and Collection) on Goods Exported From MP/CG Municipal Limit Rules, 1996 to regulate the assessment and collection of terminal tax on goods, which shall be exported from within the limits of the Municipal Corporation, the Municipal Council and the concerned Nagar Panchayat. The Schedule appended to the rules prescribes the rate at which the terminal taxes is to be levied as also the maximum rate leviable. The respondents-Municipal Corporation, Municipality, Nagar Panchayat have purportedly enhanced the terminal tax exercising the powers under Section 133 of the Municipal Corporation Act of 1956 or Section 355 read with Clause 16 of Sub-section (1) of Sections 127 & 129 of the Municipal Act of 1961. Hence the instant petition was filed challenging the said enhancement.

Counsel for the petitioners, Shailendra Shukla submitted that the authorities are not empowered to issue such orders in the teeth of the Rules framed by the State Government in 1996, under which there is already a schedule prescribed with the maximum rate also prescribed. He further submitted that any change to the rate of tax would have been only by the State Government that too by amending the provisions of Rules of 1996 and the schedule appended therein. He further stated that the Constitution of India by the 74th amendment added Article 243-X providing power to impose tax and raise funds.

Counsel for the respondents, B.D. Guru opposed the contentions highlighting the different provisions of the Municipal Corporation Act as also the Municipal Act.

The Court relied on a Supreme Court judgment titled ACC Ltd. v. State of M.P., (2005) 5 SCC 347, and held that the Municipality is only entitled to recover the export tax at the rate prescribed by the State Government and not as claimed by the municipality. It cannot impose a tax on its own as the imposition is always subject to the approval of the State Government.

In view of the above, petition is allowed and impugned orders set aside. [South Eastern Coalfields Ltd., v. State of Chhattisgarh, 2020 SCC OnLine Chh 148, decided on 17-07-2020]


*Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Orissa High Court: A Division Bench of Mohammad Rafiq, CJ and Dr B. R. Sarangi, J. disposed of two petitions which challenged the closure of religious places by the State Government in light of Covid-19. While not issuing any general direction, the Court stated that reopening places of worship are a matter for the State Government to decide.

Two writ petitions had been filed by way of Public Interest Litigations, which raised the issue of the right of people to access places of worship being hindered by an order of the Odisha Government which directed the closure of places of worship even outside containment zones till 31-07 2020. The petitioners sought the reopening of all temples in Odisha for darshan and puja for the public, subject to necessary measures such as social distancing and wearing masks.

The petitioners relied on an order by the Ministry of Home Affairs which allowed the reopening of temples from 8-06-2020 onwards. Heavy emphasis was laid on the Supreme Court’s order in Nishikant Dubey v. UOI – SLA(C) No. 8716 of 2020 dated 31-07-2020 to buttress the submission that there cannot be a complete closure of religious places. The Advocate General, Ashok Kumar Parija, however, contended that according to a press note released by the Central Government, the State Government may prohibit or restrict such activities as deemed necessary. Moreover, he stated that the decision to close religious places was taken after an assessment of Covid-19 cases, which had revealed a spike in the number of cases in different parts of Odisha in the past few weeks.

The Court held that allowing entry of people into religious places is “matter for the State government to decide, on the basis of assessment of the day to day situation prevalent from place to place.” However, the Court did not deem it appropriate to pass a general order governing the entry of people into various religious places in the state. Instead, it directed the State Government to examine the grievance of the petitioners, keeping in mind the Supreme Court order mentioned above, and make a decision it deemed appropriate about reopening different places of worship in Odisha, depending on the situation prevalent, from time to time and place to place. [Trilochan Rath v. Government of India, WP (C) No. 17898 of 2020, decided on 10-08-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Orissa High Court: B. P. Routray, J dismissed the criminal revision petitions being devoid of merit.

The case, in a nutshell, is that a mining lease in favour of the accused petitioner’s late father Mr Patnaik over an area for Manganese for 20 years and Iron Ore Mining lease was granted for 30 years in 1959. However, in the year 1967 Mr Patnaik surrendered the mining lease for Manganese but continued for Iron Ore and applied for renewal of the lease in 1988 for the break-up area, but without the de-reservation proposal though there were forest areas within the applied area. However, no renewal of fresh lease was granted in his favour after 1989, but the period was further extended for one year. The petitioner accused is alleged to apply for a lease on behalf of his father in 1991 to the Government in the Department of Steel and Mines for grant of working permission pending renewal of mining lease which was granted without any approval by the Ministry of Environment and Forest. The father of the petitioner died in 1995. The Ministry of Environment and Forest in its letter dated 3.9.1998 communicated the permission for DRP (De-reservation Proposal).

In the meantime accused requested the Government in Steel and Mines Department for 20 years renewal of the mining lease, however, without submitting the application in proper form and submitted another proposal for by enclosing a forged will. He was charged under offences under Sections 13(2) read with Section 13(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act,1968, Sections 379/120-B of the Indian Penal Code, Sections 21 of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulations) Act, 1957 (hereinafter in short called “MMDR Act”), Section 3-A of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 and Section 58 of the Mineral Conservation and Development Rules, 1988. The instant criminal revision petition is filed to challenge the order dated 19.07.2019 passed by the learned Special Judge (Vigilance), Keonjhar.

Counsel U.C. Patnaik, G. Mukherjee, S. Panda, R. K. Mohanty and Sumitra Mohanty represented the petitioner’s side. The petitioners have submitted that cognizance taken on the report of Vigilance Police is bad in the eye of law as per Section 22 of MMDR Act. It was further submitted that the complaint at the instance of the Vigilance Police and initiation of the proceeding thereof by taking cognizance of the offences by the court is vitiated as per Orissa Minerals (Prevention of Theft, Smuggling & Illegal Mining and Regulation of Possession, Storage, Trading and Transportation) Rules, 2007. It was further submitted that the provisions of the MMDR Act or MCD Rules never mean to constitute the offence of theft. It was also submitted that the two co-accused have retired from service in 1994 and 1996 respectively and therefore, initiation of any judicial proceeding against them after four years of their retirement is not permissible in view of the provision contained in Rule 7(2)(c) of the OCS (Pension) Rules, 1992.

Counsel for the respondent Sangram Das submitted that the Vigilance Officials have been duly empowered and authorized to conduct enquiry and investigation in respect of all such offences by the Notification of Government. As per Sections 22 and 23B of the MMDR Act, in its Notification dated 19-12-2009 has named the Director of Mines and two Joint Directors authorizing them to exercise the powers of detection/seizure and confiscation, etc. in connection with illegal mining activities for all type of minerals covering the entire State of Odisha. Hence the argument of the petitioners holds no value. It was further submitted that where a person without any lease or license or authority extract minerals and remove and transport them with an intent to remove dishonestly, is liable to be punished of committing such offence under Sections 378 and 379 of the IPC. The argument regarding retirement stands vitiated as the same is barred under Section 7(2)(c) of the OCS (Pension) Rules, 1992, and is not found acceptable. It is because Rule 7 has a limited field of application and cannot be extended to put an absolute bar against criminal prosecution.

The Court relied on the judgment titled Fani Bhusan Das v. State of Odisha, 2018 SCC Online 310 and held that the provision of the CrPC shall have an overriding effect and shall prevail notwithstanding any provision in the Pension Rules, and therefore, the provisions of OCS (Pension) Rules, 1992 would not give any relief to the petitioners.

In view of the above, the petition is dismissed being devoid of merits. [Jitendra Nath Patnaik v. State of Odisha, 2020 SCC OnLine Ori 559, decided on 06-08-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Karnataka High Court: A Division Bench comprising of B.V. Nagarathna and Jyoti Mulimani, JJ. reversed a 1993 order, holding that all titles, rights and interests of the Koladamatt over the land in question had been extinguished by a government notification which vested the land in the State Government following the Mutt’s failure to make an application to get registered as an applicant.

The land had been leased to the appellant in 1967 to run an automobile industry, with permission to put up structures on the land. The land in question is a part of a larger extant of land which was granted as a minor inam to the Mutt in 1897. However, a government notification dated 04.04.1970 notified 01.07.1970 as the date for vesting all inam lands in the State Government, following which the appellant made an application for registration of occupancy rights that was granted in an order dated 1.9.1984. The Mutt challenged this before a single judge of the High Court who allowed its writ petition and set aside the Land Tribunal’s 1984 order, and that decision had been challenged in the instant writ appeal.

The appellant contended that the Mutt lost all rights, interests and title in the land since it did not make an application for getting itself registered as an occupant as required by the Act. Therefore, they claimed that since the Mutt is not aggrieved by the Land Tribunal’s order, it does not have the locus standi to file the writ petition.

The Court observed that upon the vesting of all inam lands in the State Government, certain rights were reserved in the inamdars and tenants, but since the Inamdar did not make an application under the Act, it did not seek to claim any right or privilege under the Act since the former is sine qua non for the latter. Since the Mutt failed to file an application, all its rights under the Act stand extinguished. The Mutt had the right to raise contentions against the appellant’s application before the Tribunal and to that narrow extent, it could file a writ petition, but it otherwise had no locus standi to file the writ petition since it was not an aggrieved party and would derive no benefit from itself. The Bench also stated that the single judge erred in holding that the Act is applicable only to agricultural lands, since it could apply to non-agricultural lands such as uncultivated lands as well.

Since there was a subsisting lease of the land in question on the date of vesting and its possession was with the tenant i.e., the appellant, the holder would be the appellant and not the Mutt. Possession of inam land in the hands of the tenants despite the vesting of the land in the State Government is to confer certain rights and benefits upon them under the Act, and “the Government shall not dispossess any person of any land in respect of which he is considered prima facie entitled to be registered as an occupant.” It found that the Mutt cannot be the occupant of the private building/structures constructed on the land, and it would vest in the person who owned it immediately before the date of vesting i.e., in the appellant.

Court, therefore, stated that the lessee/appellant is entitled to registration of occupancy rights and the Mutt couldn’t claim any benefit under the Act. It set aside the order by the single judge and allowed the writ appeals.[S. M. Kannappa Automobiles v. Koladamatt Mahasamsthana, 2020 SCC OnLine Kar 964, decided on 29-07-2020]

Hot Off The PressNews

Karnataka High Court directs the State officials to conduct Karnataka Common Entrance Test (CET) exam as per the schedule. No student should be prevented for appearing the exam.

Bench denied to grant interim relief in terms of postponing or cancelling the exam, scheduled to be held on July 30, 31 and August 1, 2020.

Court in it’s yesterday’s Order had directed the Karnataka State government to reconsider the advisability of conducting the Karnataka Common Entrance Test (KCET) 2020 on July 30th, 31st and 1st August in light of the rising number of Covid-19 cases.

High Court has stated  that no Covid positive student should be denied opportunity of writing the examination just because documents are not provided. Authorities shall make sure that conditions in the SOP issued by the Union Ministry of Health and the SOP of state from time to time are scrupulously followed by all.

Authorities to provide transportation to needy students and all logistical support, especially to students and parents from containment zones.

Yesterday’s Decision

The Court passed the order after considering the pleas in three different petitions, all of which sought to have directions issued by the Court ordering the state government to postpone the CET. It was contended that considering the onslaught of the ongoing pandemic, conducting a physical examination was arbitrary and would jeopardize the health of the students, and conducting the same under these circumstances would amount to a violation of their fundamental rights under Article 14, since students in containment zones would not have equal opportunities of attending the exam resulting in a violation of their right to equality, and Article 21.

The Bench observed that more than 5000 new cases had been reported daily in the state in the past fortnight, with 1500 cases emerging daily in Bangalore alone, which has over 5000 containment zones. Since the government SOP prohibits the inhabitants of containment areas from travelling outside and considering that public transport would not be readily available either, the Bench duly noted that there would be a probability of students missing out on the exams.

*The above report has been prepared based on news reports.


Read the detailed Case brief, here:

KCET 2020 | Kar HC | No candidate shall be prevented from attending examination scheduled to be held from 30th July, 2020 [Detailed Brief]

 

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench of Ujjal Bhuyan and N.R. Borkar, JJ., has directed State of Maharashtra to not take any coercive action against the schools for providing online teaching to pupils belonging to Class-II and below who are willing to avail such teaching.

Adding to the above, no coercive action shall be taken by the schools against those parents who are not willing to force their children studying in class-II and below for availing online classes.

State of Maharashtra has been provided with 3 weeks time to file a reply to a petition against the 15-06-2020 Government Resolution that does not allow students of Class II and below to attend online classes.

Matter to be listed on 07-08-2020. [Parents Teachers Assn. of United Forum v. State of Maharashtra, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 793 , decided on 13-07-2020]

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Kerala High Court: A Division Bench of S. Manikumar, CJ, and Shaji P. Chaly, J., while reviewing reports on conditions of migrant labourers in labour camps situated within the State of Kerala, held that a conjoint reading of Articles 21 and 51-A of the Constitution makes it clear that the State has an onerous duty to ensure the well being, life and liberty of every citizen, which includes the migrant workers as well. Therefore, the State Government has a duty to guarantee that the employers are providing appropriate shelter to the migrant workers, a clean environment and a healthy living condition along with other basic amenities. It is also the duty of the State Government to see that employers are satisfying the requirements in accordance with the prevailing laws with respect to the wages, contribution to welfare funds of the migrant labourers. The State Government is also responsible for ensuring adequate measures for curbing ill-treatment of the labourers in any manner by the employers.

With the aforementioned observations, the Court issued the following directions for the State Government so that they can effectively ensure the protection of life and liberty of the migrant workers as envisioned by the framers of the Constitution-

  • If any information is received by the State Government and its officials in respect of any ill-treatment of the migrant labourers from any responsible corners, quick action shall be taken for ensuring their well being and life and liberty.
  • In the light of Covid-19 pandemic, if any of the migrant labourers expressed their intention to go back to their native State, adequate steps shall be taken by the State Government through its Offices to ensure return of such migrant workers subject to the lockdown restrictions.
  • Government shall ensure that migrant workers are not forcibly detained by the employers
  • While taking steps for migrant welfare, the State Government and the concerned authorities must take steps in gathering the details of identity and other information of the migrants remaining within the State and those who will return to the State post Covid-19. This step is essential in order to nab the migrants who involve themselves in criminal activities.
  • The State Government is free to frame an appropriate Legislation or Rules in regard to the stay and management of the migrants within the State instead of issuing fragmented notifications/circulars/orders to satisfy the requirements of a particular issue cropping up.

[Suo Moto v. State of Kerala, WP(C) No. 23724 of 2016, decided on 01-07-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: A Division Bench of P.N.Prakash and B. Pugalendhi, JJ., issued directions in regard to the procedure to be followed while transferring the Custodial Death matter of “Jeyaraj and Bennix” to CBI.

In the present petition, petitioner has sought direction to respondent 1 to submit a report on the death of Bennix and Jeyaraj or pass any other order/direction in the present circumstances of the matter and thus render justice.

K. Chellapandian, Additional Advocate General submitted that the State Government intends to transfer the investigation of Sathankulam case to the Central Bureau of Investigation after getting formal nod of the Court.

Bench for the above, stated that with regard to transfer or not to transfer the case to C.B.I, it is a policy decision of the State Government and thus the same will be governed by the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946.

Court further issued the following directions on the premise that the case is likely to be transferred to the CBI:

  • Registrar (Judicial), Madurai Bench of Madras High Court, shall take a photocopy of the preliminary post-mortem certificates and certify them and keep them in safe custody and send the original post-mortem certificates in a sealed cover to the learned Chief Judicial Magistrate, Tuticorin, who, in turn, shall hand over the same to the Investigating Officer of the C.B.I.
  • Judicial Magistrate No.I, Kovilpatti, shall send a copy of his report to this Court in a sealed cover and keep the original report with him in safe custody and hand over the same to the Investigating Officer of the C.B.I.
  • Deputy Superintendent of Police, Kovilpatti Range, shall hand over the Case Diaries in Kovilpatti East P.S. Cr. Nos.649 and 650 of 2020, to the learned Chief Judicial Magistrate, Tuticorin, for safe custody, who, in turn, shall hand over the same to the Investigating Officer of the C.B.I.
  • Though the accused in Sathankulam P.S. Cr. No.312 of 2020, viz., Jeyaraj and Bennix, are no more, the Superintendent of Police, Tuticorin District, shall hand over the Case Diary and other related records in Sathankulam P.S. Cr. No.312 of 2020 to the learned Chief Judicial Magistrate, Tuticorin, who, in turn, shall hand over the same to the Investigating Officer of the C.B.I., as those records will aid the C.B.I. Investigation.

Court directed the District Collector, Tuticorin to depute Revenue Officers to the Sathankulam Police Station, for the purpose of preserving the clue materials. 

Assistant Director of Mobile Forensic Science Laboratory, Tuticorin, directed to immediately go the Sathankulam Police Station, to collect the clue materials and assist the Judicial Magistrate No.I, Kovilpatti.

Matter to be listed today, i.e. 30-06-2020. [Registrar (Judicial) Madurai Bench of Madras High Court v. State of Tamil Nadu, 2020 SCC OnLine Mad 1249 , decided on 29-06-2020]


Also read:

TN Custodial Deaths | Madras HC passes slew of directions for conducting of enquiry by the Judicial Magistrate in the brutal killing of father-son duo

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Uttaranchal High Court: A Division Bench of Sudhanshu Dhulia and Ravindra Maithani, JJ., directed the State Government to file a report regarding COVID-19 virus testing facilities and regarding proper establishment of quarantine centres.

The reports were filed in the Court with regard to the quarantine centers at village level which were pathetic in Court’s opinion.

The reason for the pathetic condition was that the Gram Pradhans had absolutely no fund to run these quarantine centers. 

Secretary, Health Government of Uttarakhand was in view of the above directed to file a detailed report about the conditions of quarantine centers and whether appropriate funds have been received by them.

Yet, no affidavit has been filed before the Court as to why the Government has failed to run these basic level quarantine centers in the State.

Testing for Corona Virus

For the stated, Court was informed that the number of tests which are being done in the State at various districts are extremely low considering the number of positive cases which have come up in Uttarakhand and also as compared to the average national standard.

Bench on consideration of the facts and circumstances stated that,

“These are strange and difficult times.”

Court is conscious of the challenges before the Government, which are immense in this crisis. Yet all that was asked was for a report.

Court has been assured by the Advocate general for the State  that it would bring on record regarding the testing facility and as regarding the proper establishment of quarantine centers in the State by 22-06-2020.

Court thus made it clear that a report needs to be filed by the Secretary, Health, Government of Uttarakhand.

Matter to be listed on 23-06-2020.[Sachdanand Dabral v. UOI, 2020 SCC OnLine Utt 278 , decided on 17-06-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Telangana High Court: A Division Bench of Raghvendra Singh Chauhan, CJ and B. Vijaysen Reddy, J. while addressing a matter with regard to old age homes, held that,

“Fundamental Rights of the elderly inmates are being violated, both by the Managers, who are supposed to run the Homes, and certainly by the State Government, who is legally bound to look after the rights of the elderly population.”

Member Secretary, Telangana State Legal Services Authority had submitted a report on the functioning of an Old Age Home.

Taking note of the same along with report of inspection conducted by Member Secretary and Secretary, DLSA with regard to old age homes managed either by the Non Government Organisations (NGOs), or by the Government, Court appointed Counsel Vasudha Nagaraj as an amicus curiae.

Amicus Curiae was directed to inspect the functioning of old age homes in the cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad, for which the report has been submitted.

Report: 

Amicus Curiae, Vasudha Nagaraj informed the Court that there is no segregation on the basis of gender. In one of the Homes visited by her, she was horrified to notice that elderly lady, who was bed stricken, was sleeping in the same room, where there were two active elderly men.

Physical safety of the women is a grave concern.

No helpline or Hotline number available for the inmate to be in touch with the outside world.

The inmates are hapless and helpless elderly persons, who have been abandoned by their family, and are being ignored by the State.

Fundamental Rights of the elderly inmates are being violated, both by the Managers, who are supposed to run the Homes, and certainly by the State Government, who is legally bound to register, to maintain, to inspect, to fund, and to look after the rights of the elderly population.

Thus, in view of the above, Court directed Advocate General and Government Pleader to file a report on behalf of the Principal Secretary, Social Welfare Department and Principal Secretary, Women and Child Welfare on the following issues:

  • number of Homes which are registered, or not registered, which are functioning within Hyderabad/Secunderabad/Ranga Reddy District;
  • funding, that is being released by the Government for the maintenance, upkeep, and for providing the basic necessities and infrastructure in these Homes;
  • number of times that these Homes have been inspected by the Officers of the concerned Department.

Immediate requirement to create a helpline or a hotline and the same should be publicised and made known to the inmates of the Old Age Homes.

Respondent 2 is further directed to explore the possibility of seeking the cooperation of the Corporate Sector under the Corporate Social Responsibility so that the Companies can take up and manage, or at lease provide the best infrastructure that can be provided to the elderly inmates, keeping in mind their physical and mental needs.

Respondents 2 and 3 have also been directed to consider the possibility of having the Old Age Homes along with the Orphanage Children Home, Shelter Homes and other Homes.

Respondents are thus directed to inform the Court whether the above stated arrangement can be made in the State or not?

Report to be filed by 23rd June, 2020. Matter to be listed on 24th June, 2020. [Telangana State Legal Service Authority, Hyderabad v. State of Telangana, 2020 SCC OnLine TS 588 , decided on 15-06-2020]

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Allahabad High Court: A Division Bench of Pankaj Mithal and Yashwant Varma, JJ. have asked State Government or CMO to file its reply on whether it would like to revisit its restrictions in regard to opening of OPD for treating non COVID19 patient only in case of emergency in private hospitals and nursing homes.

State Government vide notifications had issued that the government and private hospitals as well as nursing homes in the State of U.P. have restricted from opening the OPD for treating the non COVID19 patients except in case of emergency.

In view of the above, Manish Goyal, Additional Advocate General has been directed to seek instructions as to the present state of affairs and about the viability of continuing with the above stated restrictions.

Adding to the above, it also asked for the State Government or the C.M.O to revisit the guidelines contained in the notifications as mentioned above.

Petition to be listed on 18th June, 2020.[All India Peoples Front (Radical) v. State of U.P., 2020 SCC OnLine All 776 , decided on 15-06-2020]

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]

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

In times of crisis, we need to bind, not bicker.

-Gujarat High Court

COVID 19 crisis is a humanitarian crisis, not a political crisis.

Gujarat High Court: A Division Bench of Vikram Nath, CJ and J.B. Pardiwala, J. while addressing certain issues with regard to COVID-19 , stated that,

Healthcare access is the ability to obtain healthcare services such as prevention, diagnosis, treatment and management of diseases, illness, disorders, and other health ­impacting conditions. For healthcare to be accessible it must be affordable and convenient.

Cognizance of report filed by State Government

Issue of Migrant Workers

Supreme Court has already taken care of the issue of migrant workers and thus no new directions needs to be issued by this Court.

Court though observes that,

if there are any other migrant workers in the State of Gujarat, who are desirous to go back their native States, then they may come forward so that necessary arrangements can be made for their departure. The State Government shall ensure that necessary arrangements are made for such migrants inclusive of providing food, water and other basic amenities.

Private/Corporate Hospitals designated by the State Government

Court took notice of the fact that the private / corporate hospitals agreed to reduce their rates by 30% and now they further agree to reduce by 10% for the private beds (B category) for Ward and HDU and 5% for : (1) isolation + ICU and (2) ventilation + isolation + ICU.

President of the Association namely Dr Gadhavi assured the Court that they would not raise any objection with regard to the further reduction of 10% and 5% respectively.

In the wake of the fact that the Association has readily accepted to reduce the rates by further 10% and 5% respectively, the State Government now need not renegotiate further in this regard.

Bench also added in the regard of exorbitant fees as mentioned in its last Order, that, right to health is a fundamental right and it is for the State to ensure that such right of its citizen is not infringed in any manner. It is, in such circumstances, we had to observe that the private / corporate hospitals cannot charge exorbitant fees from a helpless individual who has no means to get himself treated in a private / corporate hospitals.

Senior Counsel, Soparkar, submitted while assuring the Court that he will definitely speak and impress upon his client to ensure that all the designated hospitals strictly adhere to the terms and conditions of the Memorandum of Understanding and would not create any trouble or hardship in future for any patient who is in need of treatment.

State Government os directed to keep a close watch on all the designated private / corporate hospitals who have been directed to reserve 50% beds so that a common man may not have to suffer.

Court also clarified that, if any patient is referred by the Civil Hospital or the S.V.P. Hospital to any private / corporate hospital, then there shall be no pre­ deposit, but, if any patient directly comes to the private / corporate hospital for being treated for COVID­19, then in such circumstances, it shall be open for the hospital concerned to demand for a reasonable pre­ deposit and thereafter, raise the demand in phases as and when need arises.

Medicine is a humanitarian profession.

All the hospitals whether private or public are considered moral agent and hence have a moral responsibility. The responsibility to act in certain ways falls upon those who may make up these hospitals.

Testing Policy

Once the doctor prescribes the COVID-­19 test for the purpose of taking due care before the surgery is performed or before any particular treatment commences, then why permission is to be obtained from the DHO / CDHO?

In the above view, Court called upon the Advocate General to explain the rationale behind the said policy, as the bench found the most disturbing feature of the policy that the DHO or CDHO hardly find time to grant necessary permission.

Advocate General submitted that the report of the three experts makes it abundantly clear as regards what should be the testing policy. According to the Advocate General, the State Government is bound to comply with the guidelines issued by the ICMR.

In view of the above, Court stated that it is conscious of the facts that High Court in exercise of its jurisdiction, should not enter into the domain of policy matters. However, while dealing with a very delicate issue and that too at a point of time when situation is very critical.

In the present circumstances, Court stated that it would like to go further into this issue with the assistance of ICMR, State Government and applicants who raised the particular concern.

Thus, Court called upon the ICMR to answer the following questions:

[1] What is the rational behind its testing policy?

[2] In what manner the ICMR wants the private hospitals / laboratories to get accredited? We would like to understand from the ICMR as regards the procedure which the private hospitals / laboratories need to undertake for the purpose of conducting the COVID­19 test.

[3] What are the guidelines of the ICMR with regard to the testing through the private laboratories?

[4] Whether the guidelines issued by the ICMR are statutory in nature?

[5] Whether such ICMR guidelines are binding upon the State Government or they are only recommendatory in nature?

[6] Whether without any prescription from any Physician, an individual can go to designated private hospital / laboratory for the purpose of testing?

Court asked State Government to furnish the following information:

[1] How many private laboratories are there in the State of Gujarat recognised by the ICMR / or COVID­19 testing?

[2] In what manner a private hospital / laboratory can apply with the ICMR if it intends to carry out the COVID­19 test?

[3] How many pathological laboratories are there in the State of Gujarat, who may not be designated for the purpose of the COVID – 19 test, but, still well­ equipped to perform such test?

[4] Whether any pathological test / diagnosis is a fundamental right of the citizens of this country? To put it in other words, whether pathological testing / diagnosis is one of the facets of the right to health as embodied in Article 21 of the Constitution of India?

[5] Whether the State Government can evolve a policy of its own based on the guidance issued by the ICMR contrary to the fundamental right of its citizens with regard to the pathological test / diagnosis?

Bench felt appropriate to deal with a very urgent issue:

Whether or not to wait for the approval of the Superintendent of the GMERS, Ahmedabad and the District Health Officers in other districts before testing for COVID­19?

Disease is a natural catastrophe that fells its victims unpredictably.

On examining the guidelines of ICMR regarding testing and the three member committee report of the State Government, certain categories of patients are enumerated in the report where testing should be done.

In Court’s opinion, categories of patients, as referred above, would not be insisted for an approval from Superintendent of GMERS, Ahmedabad or the DHO for other districts, but the COVID­-19 testing should be done forthwith without any delay and only intimation of such patients may be forwarded to the  authorities concerned by the treating consultants.

Thought Court also gave clarification with regard to persons who would be categorised in the above category that the COVID-19 testing by treating Physician or Surgeon would require approval to be obtained but the same should be granted within 24 hours.

No one should be condemned to a life below the basic level of dignified human existence.

Civil Hospital

Court called upon the Advocate General to give a fair idea with regard to the condition prevailing as on date in the Civil Hospital.

Court directed the State Government to concentrate on the following issues to maintain the level of administration and functioning of Civil Hospital in the interest of patients and specialists, doctors, paramedical and all others serving at the Civil Hospital:

[1] There should be no shortage of manpower in all categories: specialists, doctors, nurses, servants, technicians, physiotherapists etc;

[2] The patients admitted in the COVID Hospitals are demanding attention and care in terms of the medical care protocols required for proper treatment. There are different medical protocols for different categories of patients. There could be severely symptomatic patients, there could be moderately symptomatic patients and there could be mild symptomatic patients and for each of the categories of such patients, the protocols to be followed are different. It is alleged that the medical protocols required for different categories of patients are not being strictly followed.

[3] There is another circumstance which relates to the COVID patients. No Attendants are allowed to assist and take care of the patients. Normally admitted non­COVID patients are allowed one attendant who takes care of their hygiene, their food, their daily necessities. However, for COVID patients, such care is to be taken by the Nurses, attendants and other staff of the hospitals.

[4] Although not confirmed, but, there are reports both in the print and digital medias that the COVID patients have lost their lives on account of proper care and attention not being provided to them. It has also come to our knowledge on account of dehydration and other negligence, COVID patients have lost their lives.

[5] There are also reports that necessary precaution are not being taken for the attending doctors and staff in terms of providing essential protective gadgets, consumables, PPE kits, etc. They cannot be put to risk under any circumstances.

All necessary medical protocols, as are laid down, for different categories of patients, should strictly be adhered to so that no life is lost because of any kind of negligence or non­ attendant.

Further, the Court stated that, Health Minister of the State; the Chief Secretary, Health Department and all other authorities to keep a very close watch on the administration and functioning of the Civil Hospital. There should not be any laxity in this regard.

A very disturbing thing was brought to the notice of the Court by Counsel Brijesh Trivedi, that, Health department is unable to withstand the pressure and in such circumstances, they may start restricting the admission of the COVID-19 patients in Civil Hospital.

Thus, the Court wants that the Civil Hospital should function at its full strength. Not a single bed should be kept vacant. If the Health Department is not able to withstand the pressure, then it should immediately make necessary arrangements to increase the strength of the doctors, nursing staff, etc.

In its parting statements, Court held that,

Ordinarily, the High Court would not interfere with the functioning of the State Government.

The Court steps in by mandamus when the State fails to perform its duty. The true test of an efficient Government can be determined from its performance in times like the present one.

All that we are doing is to remind the State Government of its constitutional obligations and the directive policies of the State.

If Court finds any remiss, negligence or carelessness, we shall come down heavily.

Bench also expressed it’s anguish over the unnecessary debates and comments that are going on as on date on the social media and other platforms.

PILs are not meant to advance the political gain and also to seek any political mileage. The Public Interest Litigation should never be made a political battle.

Court with regard to politicising the issues, stated that,

Merely criticising the government in power is not going to magically cure people of COVID 19, nor is it going to to make the dead come back to life.

Simply highlighting the flaws and gaps in the State’s handling of the situation only creates fear in the minds of people. People are least concerned about political ideologies and rivalries when their lives are at stake.

Thus, Court requested with regard to be being very careful before commenting or entering into any debate with regard to Court Orders.

If the State Government would not have been doing anything, as alleged, then probably, by now, we all would have been dead.

Matter is to be posted on 19th June, 2020. [Suo Motu v. State of Gujarat, 2020 SCC OnLine Guj 836, decided on 29-05-2020]

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench of Dipankar Datta, CJ and K.K. Tated, J. asked the State Government to file report mentioning the whole procedure that a migrant worker is required to follow in order to be eligible for leaving the State of Maharashtra, likely time within which he could board a train/bus, the nature of shelter he is provided with during the waiting period as well as provisions made available to him for his sustenance.

The present Public Interest Litigation raised very apposite issue with regard to migrant workers who wanted to avail for Shramik Special trains and buses  being left in dark about the status of the their applications for the same.

Till the time migrants are updated about the status of their applications for boarding the trains/buses, they are made to live in cramped and unhygienic shelter without the provision of food and other essentials.

Additional Solicitor General, Anil Singh submitted that Supreme Court’s 28th May, 2020 Order has taken care of plight of migrant workers.

Bench stated that , at the present stage it is not empowered nor does it wishes to make any order contrary to the spirit of Supreme Court’s Order.

However, Court called upon the State to file a report by 2nd June, 2020 indicating therein how plight of migrant workers who have been assembling at the railway stations/bus stands in Mumbai and places around it, are being addressed. [Center of Indian Trade Unions v. State of Maharashtra, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 679 , decided on 29-05-2020]

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Karnataka High Court: A Division Bench of Abhay Shreeniwas Oka, CJ and B.V. Nagarathna, J. held that,

“though several orders have been passed by this Court from time-to-time, the State has not placed on record any transparent and fair policy for selecting persons out of those who registered on Seva Sindhu website.”

Bench addressed the present petition to deal with issue of migrant workers who had applied to be accommodated to the Shramik Special Trains to their origin State.

For the above, Court stated that,

“though several orders have been passed by this Court from time to time, as of today, the State has not placed on record any transparent and rational policy of selecting the persons out of those who have registered on Seva Sindhu website for being transported by a particular Shramik special train.”

Court by its 12th May, 2020 Order has directed the State Government to give assurance to the migrant workers registered on Seva Sindhu Website that the State will make all arrangements to transport them to their respective States.

Object was to ensure that there is no unrest and none of them should even attempt to walk upto their respective States, but even as of 28th May, 2020 none of that assurance was communicated.

Further the Court observed that,

State Government being fully aware, that all the migrant workers who intended to go back to their respective States had registered themselves on Seva Sindhu website long back, instead of sending messages on their cell phones assuring that the State Government will make all possible efforts to send them back, messages were sent to more than 8,33,667 applicants calling for their confirmation. The confirmation was called for in a most complicated manner by calling upon them to type ‘YES’ followed by the last six digits of their registration number.

Most of the migrant workers may not be in a position to give reply as aforesaid even assuming that their cell phones are working.

For the above-stated action of sending messages for confirmation, State Government defended its move by pointing out that two shramik trains for Uttar Pradesh prior to 26th May, 2020 had some vacant seats.

Court stated that it is prima facie apparent that some seats in the Shramik trains were vacant as the State couldn’t inform all those who intended to travel to Uttar Pradesh to use the facility.

Prima Facie, Court’s opinion was that the said exercise undertaken by the State appears to be an exercise undertaken to exclude large number of persons who had already registered themselves to go back to their respective States.

State cannot come out with an excuse that it is not possible to communicate such assurance as they have undertaken the exercise of sending SMS to all registered mobile numbers of the applicants registered on Seva Sindhu website.

Additional Advocate General stated that the State Government has no intention of excluding anyone who is registered on Seva Sindhu website and the State will take immediate steps to communicate an assurance to all those who have registered and will make all possible arrangements to enable their transport back to their respective States.

“…there is complete absence of a transparent and fair policy to choose persons out of registered applicants.”

Further with regard to grievance of delay on part of Railways in providing food, explanation was given that there was a delay in the trains reaching the railway stations where arrangements were made to serve food as the trains were stranded due to various reasons. 

From the submissions it was also stated that food for first few hours of journey by Shramik trains will be provided by the State Government and further meals will be provided by the Railways.

Counsel for Bengaluru Water Supply and Sewage Boards stated that wages to all migrant workers who had left the work have also been fully paid.

An assurance is also provided that, State Government will take action for violation of provisions of Payment of Wages Act, 1936 and Minimum Wages Act, 1948.

Lastly, the Court concluded its decision by stating that in terms of the above stated assurance, action will be initiated by State Government against employers/contractors concerned which would ensure that workers get their unpaid wages.[Mohammed Arif Jameel v. UOI, 2020 SCC OnLine Kar 539 , decided on 28-05-2020]

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Uttaranchal High Court: A Division Bench of Ramesh Ranganathan, CJ and R.C. Khulbe, J., while recording the plight of migrant workers, stated that,

“…lackadaisical approach adopted, to ameliorate the plight of these miserable lot, does not show the administration, both at the Centre and in the State, in good light.”

Bench asked Assistant Solicitor General, Rakesh Thapliyal:

What arrangements have been made for transportation of stranded migrant workers, and other who have registered themselves to be brought back to their homes within the State of Uttarakhand?

ASG responded to above that:

From 1st June, 2020 onwards, one train would run from Amritsar to Haridwar and back; and another train would run daily from New Delhi to Haridwar and Dehradun and back; and, in all, around 2000 passengers would be transported by train each day.

Chief Standing Counsel, Paresh Tripathi  for the State Government submitted that more than 1000 buses are being plied by the State Government to transport stranded migrant workers, and others who have registered themselves, from other States to their respective destinations in the State of Uttarakhand.

All possible steps, to provide succor to these hapless persons, are being taken by the State Government.

Court on perusal of the circumstances and the present matter, stated that,

“Failure to take immediate steps to provide adequate transportation facilities, and to introduce more trains and buses, to ply these unfortunate victims, who have lost all means of livelihood during this COVID-19 pandemic, back to their homes, would only result in their continuing to walk thousands of miles, without food, to reach their homes.”

Further the bench while recording the plight of migrants stated that,

indifference exhibited by the haves, to the plight of these have nots who are forced to walk for miles together without food and water (during peak summer when several parts of the country are seeing a record surge in day temperature), is extremely disturbing.

Hence the Court directed Centre and State to bring back the stranded migrant workers, who are walking back to their respective homes in the State of Uttarakhand with greater urgency and a proper mode of transportation. [Preetam Singh Panwar v. UOI,  2020 SCC OnLine Utt 237 , decided on 27-05-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Karnataka High Court: The Division Bench of Abhay Sreenivas Oka, CJ, and B.V. Nagrathna, J., took the Government of Karnataka to task for not having a clear stand on the issue of paying the train fares of the migrants who wish return to their State of Origin.   

Before focussing on the migrant’s issues, the Court took notice of the ‘shocking’ response by the State Government in dealing with the issue of marriage in the house of a prominent politician on 17-04-2020. The Bench observed that how the administration went out of their way to ensure that the marriage is organised; and that there is no clarity on whether the Lockdown Guidelines issued by the Central Government in the month of April were followed properly or not. Refusing to waste it’s time on the issue, the Court then sought to address the, issues of migrant workers who are stranded on the streets.  The Court observed that from 17-05-2020, various ‘shramik trains’ have been allowed to transport 70,000 migrants from the State of Karnataka to their home States. It was noted that the Government of Karnataka is bearing the travel expenses of the migrants working in other States who originally belong to the State of Karnataka. However, the stand taken vis-a-vis the migrants in the State who want to go back to their States of origin is that, unless the corresponding States to which the migrants wish to travel, agree to bear the train fare, the migrant will have to pay the train fare. It was argued that Government’s differentiation of migrants on basis of their State of Origin is violative of Articles 14, 15 and 19 (1) (d) of the Constitution. The Additional Advocate General appearing for the State Government submitted that the Supreme Court has already dealt with the issue.   

Upon perusal of the facts and arguments, the Bench observed that the Central Government’s stand on the issue that “in case of migrant workers from other States which have not agreed to pay the train fare of the migrant workers, the State Government will have to pay the fare to the Railways and thereafter, take up the matter with the corresponding States for reimbursement of the amounts”.

Thus the Court directed the State Government to clarify whether it wants to stray from the stand taken by the Centre; or they really want to take a stand along the line that, a migrant worker who has no income and is not in a position to pay Railway fare will not be allowed to travel by special trains to his home State. [ Mohd. Arif Jameel v. Union of India, 2020 SCC OnLine Kar 538 , decided on 18-05-2020]

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Patna High Court: A Division Bench of Anil Kumar Sinha and Dinesh Kumar Singh, JJ., addressed a petition with regard non-provision of food and other medical facilities to leprosy patients during the present Lockdown due to COVID-19.

Petition sought issuance of direction to State of Bihar with regard to providing leprosy patients food grains, cooked food, medical facilities, provision of sanitization and to create a hygienic atmosphere for living in their residential area.

Counsel for the petitioner, Gautam Kejriwal submitted that leprosy patients are neither getting proper cooked food/food grains nor medical facilities nor the sanitation facilities nor proper living atmosphere, particularly, during present pandemic COVID-19, as a result, their living has become hazardous. Instead the leprosy patients with rations card are inly being provided food grains

Court asked for a comprehensive report from Member Secretary, Bihar State Legal Services Authority to get a report from the Secretaries of all the District Legal Service Authorities with regard to legal aid, financial aid/transfer of money under various schemes, distribution of food grains, medical and sanitization facilities provided to leprosy patients as well as living conditions of such leprosy patients.

Chief Secretary, Government of Bihar to monitor the present situation, particularly, the issue of the supply of food grains/cooked food/clean drinking water including the medical facilities to leprosy patients.

Matter to be listed on 14-05-2020.[Sam Uttan v. Union of India, 2020 SCC OnLine Pat 523, decided on 04-05-2020]

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Gauhati High Court: A Division Bench of Songkhupchung Serto and S. Hukato Swu, JJ. gave certain limited directions to the State Government and other authorities regarding handling the COVID-19 situation in the State.

The Court was considering a PIL through which certain concerns regarding actions already and which are yet to be taken by the State Government regarding COVID-19 were sought to be brought the Court’s notice for issuing necessary directions.

Having heard the petitioner and the respondents, the Court was of the view that at this stage, it would be sufficient if notice is issued to the respondents and limited directions as mentioned below are issued:

1. Make at least 2 (two) testing labs of COVID-19 functional within 10 (ten) days from today and make every effort to establish other labs at strategic places in the State to facilitate free testing in the near future.

2. Provide sufficient number of PPEs which are of the standard quality prescribed by the appropriate authority to all persons who are involved in the treatment of COVID-19 patients and in the looking after of persons in quarantine centres.

3. Make all efforts to make ICU facilities at all places identified for treatment of COVID-19 infected persons and also increase the number of ventilators so as to facilitate treatment in times of need.

4. Make ambulance available to the patients of COVID-19, at the earliest, if not already made available and to also make available transportation facilities to all persons who are in the line of duty, in view of the constraints and restraints imposed both by the Government and the public.

5. See to it that under no circumstance or circumstances there should be any shortage of trained personnel for treatment of the COVID-19 patients and those who are quarantined.

6. Gear up and make sure that the 2 (two) main hospitals which have been identified for treatment of COVID-19 patients i.e. one at Kohima and one at Dimapur are fully equipped and ready for functioning to meet the challenge or challenges posed by the COVID-19 within a period of 2 (two) weeks.   

It was also directed that the State and other respondents will file their affidavit showing their level of preparedness and also a statement showing the materials already supplied for the personnel who are on the line of duty. [Kikrukhonuo v. State of Nagaland, 2020 SCC OnLine Gau 1370 , dated 27-4-2020]