Criminal act, no less than genocide: Allahabad HC on death due to non-supply of oxygen to hospitals
Allahabad: Terming the death of Covid patients due to non-supply of oxygen to the hospitals as a "criminal act" and not less than genocide on part of those entrusted to ensure such supplies, Allahabad High Court has initiated an enquire into the matter.
The court took stock of reports of shortage of medical oxygen due to rise in Covid-19 infections on one hand and hoarding of oxygen cylinders on the other, showing a contradictory picture to the claims made by the state government regarding sufficient supply of oxygen.
The High Court bench comprising of Justices Siddhartha Varma and Ajit Kumar, in the order dated 04.05.2021, directed the District Magistrates of Lucknow and Meerut to inquire into the matter of such news items within 48 hours and submit the reports on the next date of hearing.
Referring to the viral news circulating on the social media showing people dying due to lack of oxygen in Meerut and Lucknow, the court noted,
"Stories of hoarding of oxygen cylinders and harassment meted out to those poor citizens who were begging for an oxygen cylinder to save the life of their near and dear ones, both at the end of district administration and police administration are being viral in social media."
The division bench added;
"We are at pain in observing that death of Covid patients just for non supplying of oxygen to the hospitals is a criminal act and not less than a genocide by those who have been entrusted the task to ensure continuous procurement and supply chain of the liquid medical oxygen."
The news reports mentioned in the order referred to a new trauma centre in a Meerut-based hospital, where five patients had died in the ICU recently. Similarly, another news showed that one Lucknow-based hospital had taken its hands off the admitted Covid-19 patients due to a shortage of Oxygen even after repeated requests demanding the same.
The court noted,
"We find these news items showing a quite contrary picture to one claimed by the Government that there was sufficient supply of oxygen."
Giving directions to the District Magistrates of Meerut and Lucknow to inquire into the matter at the earliest the bench further noted,
"How can we let our people die in this way when science is so advanced that even heart transplantation and brain surgery are taking place these days."
Asking the concerned district magistrates to submit conduct an inquiry within 48 hours and submit a report on the next day of the hearing, the court added,
"Normally, we would have not directed the State and district administration to enquire into such news that have been viralled on social media but since the Advocates who were appearing in this PIL supported such news and even submitted that more or less situations in other districts of State are the same, we find it necessary to direct for immediate remedial measures to be taken by the Government."
Apart from dealing with the issue of Oxygen shortage, submissions were also made regarding the shortage of Remdesivir in Government and Private hospital. An advocate also submitted before the Court that the referral letter system for procuring Remdesivir has further complicated the system.
Directing the state to ensure a sufficient supply of Remdesivir and Tocilizumab, the Court also took note of a submission made by a 3rd year Law student, who suggested distributing the Remdesivir and Oxygen cylinder confiscated by the Police from illegal possession.
The counsel for the State assured the Court that he would take up the matter to the State government so that proper disposal of the articles like oxygen cylinder, Remdesivir Injection and oximeter is done and is not wasted.
Although the court expressed satisfaction over the state's decision to impose lockdown to stop the spread of Covid-19, it also took note of the fact submissions made by the counsel for the petitioner who claimed that though the Government has created a portal to show the availability of Level-2 and Level-3 beds in Covid wards and ICUs in various hospitals, both Private and Government but the data fed for display in the portal was not correct.
Further, addressing the death of a Judge, the HC bench sought a report regarding the matter from the additional advocate general.
Besides, submissions were also made before the Court regarding the delay in getting RT-PCR test results. Taking note of the fact that due to delay in getting results, the infected people might infect others, the HC bench asked the counsel for the State to look into the matter and come up with an affidavit showing the testing capacity of RTPCR Lab for the districts Lucknow and Prayagraj, Varanasi, Kanpur Nagar, Meerut, Gorakhpur, Ghaziabad, Gautambudh Nagar, Agra and Jhansi by the next date fixed.
Apart from this, the HC bench further directed the State to study the feasibility to set up a vaccination centre specifically where lawyers of the Bar Association and employees of the High Court at Allahabad could get vaccinated.
Adding that similar facility may also be provided to the lawyers of the Lucknow Bench of the High Court, the order mentioned,
"The endeavour should be to vaccinate maximum number of lawyers as early as possible and the employees of the High Court both at Allahabad and its Lucknow Bench."
Finally, addressing the affidavit filed by the State Election Commission, the HC bench noted,
"We have been informed that even during the counting of polls of Gram Panchayat Elections of the State that had taken place on 29th April 2021 and onwards, the Covid protocol and guidelines were definitely flouted. People gathered in huge numbers at the counting centers and both the Election Officers and Police administration had completely failed to ensure the compliance of Covid guidelines."
The High Court bench, thus, directed the State Election Commission to produce the CCTV footage of the designated counting areas and centres both in the form of the footage print and also Pen Drive by the next date of hearing, in the first instance relating District Lucknow, Prayagraj, Varanasi, Gorakhpur, Ghaziabad, Meerut, Gautambudh Nagar, and Agra.
"We make it clear at the same time that in case if the Commission itself finds from the CCTV footage that there has been clear violation of the Covid- 19 protocol and guidelines, it would come up with action plan in that regard," the order further mentioned.
The matter would be next heard on May 7, 2021.
To view the original court order, click on the link below.