JUDICIARY THE PROTECTOR OF RIGHTS:
The role of judiciary as a protector of life and liberty of people has been deep embedded in the golden articles of Indian Constitution; Gujarat High Court by adopting a realistic approach during this global pandemic has given life to those articles. After the Supreme Court’s disappointing response to the migrant crisis, the Gujarat High Court has somewhat restored the faith of people in the justice system. The directions and suggestions put forward by the court are commendable and if followed adequately, India can for sure overcome the crisis it is facing now. Today, India has over 1 lakh cases of Covid-19, apart from that the pictures and reports surfacing on net showing the plight of migrant laborers and the problems faced by the health workers are disheartening. The human crisis faced by Indians requires a quick response and the High Courts of India have truly shown judicial activism by taking suo moto cognizance in such matters.
A GLANCE ON THE MATTER:
The High Court of Gujarat took suo moto cognizance in the matters concerning various issues emerging for the medical and health workers, migrant workers and prisoners from the pandemic.
It came down heavily on the state government for the inappropriate measures and trying to “Artificially Control” the Covid situation. The court commenting on a hospital said that the covid facility in the state is as good as a dungeon, may be even worse. Observing the pathetic situation in these hospitals the court questioned the Gujarat Government that whether it was aware of the high mortality rate due to lack of adequate number of ventilators. The court lambasted the health department and questioned the number of times the Health Minister of the state has visited the hospital. The Gujarat High Court drew a parallel between the Titanic Tragedy and the plight of these workers. The court recalled how “Carpathia” acted as a savior of many victims of the titanic tragedy and that we all should become Carpathia and urge people to fight against Coronavirus.
The Court directed the state to initiate appropriate legal action against the private hospitals which were unwilling to honor price control of the treatment. The court stated that such persons should be prosecuted under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code and Section 57 and 58 of the disaster management Act.
OBSERVATIONS MADE AND DIRECTIONS GIVEN BY THE COURT:
Comparing to the situations to “sinking of the titanic” the bench said, “The tragic saga of the titanic teaches us that our fate is uncertain, governed by the powerful forces of nature. The crashing of Titanic was inevitable, but was evitable was loss of human lives. We are facing a similar tragedy today in form of a global pandemic so we all should become the “Carpathia”.
While hearing to several contentions a bench of Justice JB Pardiwala and Ilesh Vora gave several directions in the matter in order to improve treatment and facilities to Covid patients. Some of them were:
- The court directed the state government to make it mandatory for all the private and multispecialty hospitals in the outskirts of the city to reserve 50% of its beds for covid patients.
- Working conditions of the resident doctors should be improved and accountability should be fixed on the senior doctors failing their duty to improve facilities.
- A punitive action should be taken against the irresponsible staff and Class III & IV Union should be dealt with strictly.
- The court proposed stationing of one ambulance outside every quarantine facility to ensure maximum facilities to the patients.
- State was directed to procure maximum number of testing kits.
- The government was directed to raise a computerized COVID Control Center and a website control centre should be created for everyone to know about various actions that may be taken.
- A treatment protocol should be devised and should be followed by all facilities. State authorities should make necessary arrangements for PPE kits.
The court also opined that more private hospitals should be accorded permission for treatment or corona virus and the state government should regulate the rates charged for the treatment. It also stated that if the private hospitals do not budge and demand exorbitant amount, then the court will initiate a legal action against such hospitals and may even cancel their license. The court observed that the private hospitals are designated to treat corona virus patients under the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1987 and the government should not restrict the number of tests on the fear that more tests would lead to 70% of the population testing Covid positive.
COURT ON THE ISSUE OF LABOURERS AND MIGRANT WORKERS:
The court registered another suo moto case and sought a detailed report from the government regarding the steps taken to ameliorate the situation. It directed the railway authorities to waive off the charges for one way travel of the migrant workers and state to bear these costs. It was also stated that the provisions of Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act 1979 that includes covered displacement allowance and journey charges apply on them.
Also, the bench stated that the migrant workers and the poor and downtrodden sections of society who are starving and suffering should be provided with basic amenities.
MEASURES TAKEN TO CURB SPREAD OF INFECTION IN THE PRISON:
The bench extended the period of interim bail for prisoners for forty five days as a measure to decongest the jails and prevent the spread of corona virus infection.
The court sought for guidelines from the High Power Committee for the state of Gujarat and as a result 1198 prisoners of certain class were released on interim bail.
Thus, the court has adequately considered the problems faced by the people ongoing the covid crisis and sufficiently addressed all of them.