Courts cannot presume that all COVID-19 deaths happened due to medical negligence: Supreme Court
New Delhi: The Supreme Court has clarified that considering the severe impact of the second wave of the pandemic in the country, all COVID deaths cannot generally be presumed to be the result of medical negligence.
Such an observation came from the Apex Court while it was considering a plea seeking compensation for the kin of the COVID victims who died due to lack of oxygen & essential healthcare facilities, by treating it as medical negligence, adds Live Law.
"To assume that each death due to COVID-19 took place due to negligence is too much. The second wave had such an impact across the country that it cannot be presumed that all deaths happened due to negligence. Courts cannot have a presumption that all Covid deaths happened due to medical negligence, which your petition does," the bench comprising of Justice DY Chandrachud, Vikram Nath and Hima Kohli was quoted saying by PTI.
The bench clarified that although the petition presumes that all COVID deaths are results of medical negligence, the Court cannot do the same. Thus, asking the petitioner to withdraw the plea the top court asked him to approach the competent authorities with his suggestions.
As per the latest media report by Live Law, the plea filed through Advocate Sriram P, Nachiketa Vajpayee, and Divyangna Mallik sought several directions from the top court. Their prayers included-
(1) Direction to the Centre and States for submitting a consolidated report particularly about the second wave of the pandemic indicating the total number of COVID-19 patients who had died due to lack of medical oxygen, essential medicines for COVID-19, and other healthcare facilities.
(2) Direction to both Centre and the States for compensating the families of such COVID-19 victims who died due to a shortage of healthcare facilities.
(3) Direction to Central Government for framing a comprehensive National Plan to not only dealing with the second wave of the pandemic, but also clarify the preparedness to face the impending third wave.
(4) Direction to concerned authorities for initiating proceedings against the concerned representatives or officials responsible for committing gross medical negligence thereby leading towards a rapid spread of COVID-19.
(5) Direction to Centre and Uttarakhand Government for providing financial and medical assistance to treat all such patients COVID-19 while attending Maha Kumbh Mela.
(6) Directions to concerned authorities so that all those patients who contracted COVID while attending election rallies and participating in the election process in West Bengal, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry and in the Gram Panchayat election in the State of Uttar Pradesh, get medical assistance for treatment.
When the matter came up for hearing on Wednesday, the Supreme Court bench referred to a recent verdict of June 30, in which it had directed the National Disaster Management Authority to recommend within six weeks appropriate guidelines for ex-gratia assistance on account of loss of life to the family members of persons, who died due to COVID-19.
It said, "in that verdict the court has taken a view with regard to humanity and not due to negligence. The government is yet to come out with the policy. If you have any suggestion with regard to implementation of that policy, you can approach the competent authority".
At the outset, advocate Sriram Parakat, appearing for the petitioner, said that his petition is different as it brings into account an element of negligence and compensation for the deaths which have happened due to medical negligence.
The bench noted that since the petition was filed in the month of May, a lot of developments have taken place.
"We have taken suo motu cognizance on Covid preparedness and a National Task Force has been constituted by this court which is looking into several aspects," the bench said.
The bench further told Parakat that, "It was such a wave that it affected the entire country" and the court cannot make a general presumption of medical negligence.
The top court, while disposing of the petition, asked the petitioner to withdraw his plea and amend it and if any suggestions are there, then the petitioner can approach the competent authority.