Char Dham cannot turn into another hot bed for spread of virus: Uttarakhan High Court issues SOP’s

  • Shruti Kakkar
  • 04:17 PM, 27 Apr 2021

The Division Bench of Chief Justice Raghvendra Singh & Justice Alok Kumar Verma while hearing a batch of PILs concerning CoVID management in the state especially in light of Kumbh Mela have issued a slew of directions to prevent the spread of CoVID 19. 

The directions passed by the Bench include a direction to the State Govt to immediately issue a SoP with regard to the opening of Char Dhams. 

SoP should indicate the procedure for registration of the pilgrims, the number of pilgrims allowed to travel to the respective Dham, the accommodation which would be available for the pilgrims, the number of pilgrims allowed to enter each temple at the Dham.”, the Bench directed. 

The State Government was also directed to ensure strict compliance of the SoP issued by the Central & State Govt. 

This particular direction came in light of submissions made by Petitioner’s Counsel highlighting that the stating the State Government had not come up with any SoP, or concrete plans for regulating, or controlling the number of pilgrims who would be allowed to reach these holy temples, and the number of persons who would be permitted to gather at these temples. He also submitted that a large number of pilgrims would wind their way to these holy temples the moment the doors of these holy temples would open. 

The Court took note of the number of CoVID cases in last one week & observed that, “Taking this figure as the base figure, and extrapolating it for the near future, obviously, if this trend continues for another three to four months, not only Uttarakhand, but even the nation, will hit its peak after three to four months. The rough estimate is that by the end of July, 2021 or beginning of August, 2021, six lakhs people may be adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic within the State.

Thereafter, the Bench of Justice further issued the following directions to the State Govt on various aspects:

1. RT PCR Tests

  • Increase the number of authorized laboratories/clinics/hospitals which can carry on the testing for a larger percentage of population.
  • Increase the number of testing being done in the big cities of the State. In the big cities, like Dehradun,Haridwar and Haldwani testing should be increased to at least 30,000 per day. 
  • To consider the use of other kits, besides the Rapid Antigen Kit, or the RT PCR tests, for increasing the tests being carried out on a daily basis.
  • To seriously consider the use of “mobile vans” which could penetrate into the heartland and into the interior parts of the State for carrying out the test.

2. Increase in CoVID 19 Hospitals 

The Bench on this particular aspect issued the following directions: 

  • To increase the number of Dedicated COVID-19 Hospitals as merely having five Dedicated COVID-19 Hospitals is too little to tackle the menace, especially when there is likeliness of the pandemic to spread & increase throughout the State in the coming months.
  • To consider the feasibility of establishing temporary hospitals with the help of the Defence Research and Development Organization (‘DRDO’) or with the help of any other Central agency. Since a few temporary hospitals have already been constructed for the benefit of Kumbh Mela, the said hospitals should not be dismantled till the COVID-19 pandemic is over.
  • To increase the number of COVID-19 Health Care Centres. Since, presently, the Health Care Centres are established only in twelve districts, the Health Care Centres also need to be established in the thirteenth district of the State.
  • To increase the number of beds available in the hospitals. It shall ensure that the majority of the beds are equipped with Oxygen tanks and sufficient numbers of beds are equipped with ventilators. If necessary, the number of ICUs in the hospitals should be increased. This is essential as it is claimed that the second strain directly affects the lungs of the patient. Therefore, the patient needs to be given intensive care, and may require to be put on a ventilator immediately.

3. Availability of CT Scan Machines

State Govt to endeavor to increase the CT scan machines available in the State. 

Since the Government Hospitals cater to a larger section of the population, the Government Hospitals should be equipped with CT scan machines on war footing.”, the Bench remarked.

4. Availability of PPE Kits

The Court took note of the media reports as per which the Government Hospitals were not well-equipped with PPE kits. Thus, it directed the State Govt to ensure availability of PPE kits and other protective gear, such as gloves, masks, and sanitizer to all the medical staff, especially to the Doctors, Nurses, Ward Boys to look after the COVID-19 patients. 

Until and unless our front line workers are protected from COVID-19 virus, it will be impossible for us to win the battle against the COVID-19 virus.”, the court said.

5. Contractual Employees being on strike since six months 

The Bench observed that the entire hospital turned into a garbage dump due to the strike. 

The unhygienic condition, prevailing both inside and outside the hospital, poses a grave threat to the health of COVID-19 patients.”, the Court observed & therefore directed the State Govt to resolve the dispute between the contractual employees and the management. 

“The Government should, on war footing, ensure that the campus is immediately cleaned and hygienic conditions are maintained in the campus.”, the Court remarked.

6. Overcharging of CoVID 19 Patients 

Mr Amit Negi, Ld Secretary, Medical Health & Family Welfare to personally inquire into the charges & to take strict action against the erring hospitals in accordance with law if in case hospitals are found violating the Government Order dated 02.09.2020.

Moreover, considering the fact that the private hospitals were granted land at a concessional rate under the condition that 25% of the beds available in the hospitals would be reserved for people belonging to the category of the Below Poverty Line, Mr. Negi, the learned Secretary, is directed to inquire whether the said condition is being following or not by the private hospitals? In case, it is discovered that the private hospitals are flouting the said condition, then strict action should be taken against the erring hospitals in accordance with law.”, the Bench further directed.

7. Availability of Information

To publish the names and locations of the testing centres, and the names and locations of Hospitals/ Dedicated COVID-19 Health Care Centres in the media bulletin on a daily basis. The media bulletin should clearly indicate the total number of beds available in each hospital/ Dedicated COVID-19 Health Care Centres, and the number of vacant beds available in each hospital. It should also indicate the class of the beds, i.e. the number of beds attached with ventilators, number of beds attached with Oxygen tanks, and the number of beds without any Oxygen tank.

8. Remdesiver 

To procure and distribute sufficient numbers of anti-viral injection, namely ‘Remdesivir’, on war footing throughout the State.

The matter would now be taken up on May 10, 2021.

Case Title: Sachidanand Dabral v. Union of India