- On 12 May 2021, the Goa Bench of the Bombay High Court was hearing a plea in the case of, South Goa Advocates Association Vs. State of Goa and Ors., which concerns the management of COVID-19 in Goa. The Court said that the State must Protect the Right to Life of people and if people are dying due to lack of oxygen then it is a violation of Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
- There are several cases filed in the High Court of Bombay at Goa for the management of COVID-19 in the State of Goa on which this bench has passed the present order.
- In this case, we are focusing on the condition of COVID-19 positive patients in Goa and how this situation is managed.
- Particularly, the case talks about the Goa Medical College where it was observed that there was a lack of oxygen and other basic medical facilities like beds.
- It was noted that Goa Medical College has around seven hundred beds with them but the patients who were admitted were around thousand, which simply explains that there is a lack in availability beds.
- Coming to the Oxygen availability it was submitted that there is lack of oxygen for all the COVID patients in the Goa Medical College and people are dying because of the same.
- The case also talks about the entry of people into the State through State borders.
Observation of the Court
- The Court observed that the situation about the supply of oxygen at the Goa Medical College is quite grim and said that we have long passed the stage of determining whether patients are suffering from the lack of oxygen or not. The Court also said that the material placed before us establishes that patients are indeed suffering and even in some cases succumbing for want of the supply of oxygen, in the State of Goa.
- The Court said that now at this stage we can only say that the State Administration, in addition to the efforts which they have already been making, they have to make further efforts to see that Goa Medical College is supplied with the required amount of oxygen as they have mentioned.
- The Court mentioned a very important point of Right to Life and said that providing adequate oxygen to the patients is vital because e the right to life is a fundamental right guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution. Therefore, a corresponding duty is cast on the State to ensure that this life is not extinguished on account of the inability on the part of the State to supply oxygen to these unfortunate victims of the pandemic. The Court also said that this duty can neither be avoided by pleading helplessness nor by putting forth logistical difficulties in sourcing and supplying oxygen.
- The Court further said that though the State has assured us time and again that there is sufficient oxygen available but the problem was mainly of logistics of the supply chain. However, the Court said that in any case that such a logistic issue must be dealt with at the earliest so that no patient has to gasp for breath and there are no casualties because of the lack of oxygen.
- The Court also said that no doubt that the Economy is very important but at this stage the priority should be the issue of health and survival, ultimately the economy is there for people and not the other way round
Orders of the Court
- The Court had posted the matter for further hearing on 13 may 2021 and said that we hope that at least tonight, with the joint effort of State administration and Dean, there will be no causalities because of the lack of Oxygen.
- The Court also accepting the conditions proposed by the Advocate General, required for vehicles entering the State, the Court ordered that we waive the requirement of COVID Negative certificate to two drivers and one helper per vehicle until further notice. However, the Court made it clear that at each of the borders, the police or the other authorities will have to scan such persons with the thermal guns to see whether they display any symptoms and if such symptoms are displayed, then, the police authorities or the other authorities should deny access to such persons within the State of Goa.
Do you think it is a violation of Article 21 if people die because of lack of oxygen?
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