“How can we let our people die in this way when science is so advanced?”Allahabad High Court orders inquiry into incidents of death due to non-supply of oxygen

  • Ratna Singh
  • 05:39 AM, 05 May 2021

The Allahabad High Court on Tuesday while hearing a PIL noted that authorities which are responsible for procurement and supply of the gas are committing criminal acts.

A Division Bench of Justices Ajit Kumar and Siddhartha Varma proceeded to order an inquiry into incidents of death reported from Meerut and Lucknow hospitals based on social media reports and observed that,

“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. 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. 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.”

The Court observed that the stories which went viral on social media showed poor citizens begging for oxygen cylinders to save the lives of their near and dear ones and harassment meted out to them by district administration and police administration.

“The news was also viralled that five patients had died in ICU of a new trauma centre of Medical College, Meerut on Sunday last. Similarly, news were also being viralled that one Sun Hospital, Gomti Nagar, Lucknow and another private hospital at Meerut had taken their hands off the admitted Covid patients only for the reason that oxygen supply was not made even after demand. We find these news items showing a quite contrary picture to one claimed by the Government that there was sufficient supply of oxygen.”

One advocate Utsav Mishra in his application raised the issue of Police keeping the oxygen cylinder, Remdesivir Injection and Oximeter confiscated from illegal possessions, in the Malkhana of various districts, whereas Remdesivir Injection and Oxygen cylinder which were widely in demand could have been released to the district administration and should not have been waisted in the name of case property. He further submitted that Remdesivir Injection was to be kept on a definite temperature so that it did not get expired and if it is kept at Malkhana, it would certainly expire.

“Similarly, oxygen cylinder can also be put to use as it is in great demand. Oximeters that were confiscated, could also be distributed to the poor people and keeping all these articles in Malkhana would not be at all in public interest as it will all go wastage.”- stated the advocate.

One Sri Amrendra Nath Singh, learned Senior Advocate and President of Allahabad High Court Bar Association submitted that situation was quite alarming since lawyers had to render assistance in dispensation of justice by the High Court, some specific centres should be assigned to vaccinate every member of the Bar Association. He has suggested that K.P. Community Centre Hall could be requisitioned for this limited purpose for some time.

The bench accordingly directed Sri Goyal, 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. Similar facility may also be provided to the lawyers of the Lucknow Bench of the High Court. 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.

The Court on Tuesday also took a view of the response submitted by the State Election Commission (EC) after the Court had, on previous occasion, asked for explanation from the EC on the death of the polling agents and officers due to the COVID-19 during the course of Panchayat elections in the State.

“From the recitals as have come up in the letter dated 28th April, 2021, we find that emphasis was more upon the correctness of the news item of which we had taken judicial notice than verifying the number of deaths. We make it clear that any slackness on the part of the Election Commission on this issue will not be tolerated”- noted the bench

Further the court observed that,

“We have been informed that even during the counting of polls of Gram Panchayal 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 centres and both the Election Officers and Police administration had completely failed to ensure the compliance of Covid guidelines.”

The Bench further went on to state that the Election Commission in a case before the Supreme Court had given an undertaking dated April 7, that counting will be supervised through CCTV cameras to be installed at the designated counting centres and those who were in charge of the counting centres would be held responsible for any lapse regarding compliance of Covid-19 guidelines.

“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 matter will be next heard on 7th May,2021.

Case title- In-Re Inhuman Condition at Quarantine Centres and for Providing Better Treatment to Corona Positive v. State of U.P