The Supreme Court slammed the Delhi government for choosing to “shoot messengers, doctors and paramedics” who brought the dismal truth about its COVID-19 hospitals to light, rather than making an effort to “redeem itself”.
“Doctors, paramedics are warriors. The fight against this pandemic is like a war. They need support. But you are only interested in filing FIRs. Solution is not threatening doctors. We will not permit that to happen…” Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, one of the judges on the Bench led by Justice Ashok Bhushan, orally addressed the Delhi government side.
Justice Kaul referred to the suspension of an employee who shot a video about the “deplorable state of affairs” in LNJP Hospital, including the piling up of the COVID-19 dead.
“The person who shot the video has been suspended”, Justice Kaul remarked orally.
“You do not want the truth to come out”, Justice M.R. Shah interjected.
Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain, for Delhi, agreed there was no point in shooting messengers.
“You are shooting messengers, doctors and paramedics”, Justice Kaul said.
Mr. Jain acknowledged that “everything is not hunky-dory”.
“We are not leaving anything to chance. We are very focussed on remedial measures for patient care, disposal of dead bodies and salaries… Our emphasis is on remedial measures… In capacity-building”, Mr. Jain assured the court.
The court, however, was not satisfied with the government’s response and asked it to file a fresh affidavit by day after tomorrow (June 19) detailing the corrective steps it has taken to redeem itself, including withdrawal of FIRs against whistleblowers.
“We do not appreciate your approach both before and after our issuance of notice to you”, Justice Kaul said.
The hearing is based on the suo motu cognisance taken by the apex court on the treatment meted out to COVID-19 patients and the bodies of those who lost the battle with the virus. The court referred to several media reports, especially on the Delhi government-run LNJP Hospital, on the lack of infrastructure, patients and their families running from pillar to post to get themselves admitted and, ultimately, videos of COVID-19 dead being thrown into pits.
“The State on whom the duty lies to take care of health of its citizens cannot abdicate its responsibility of ensuring that all hospitals including Government hospitals take care of the COVID-19 patients. The duty of the State of NCT Delhi does not end in informing the people that it has arranged 5,814 beds in government hospitals and 9,535 beds including private hospitals. The State and its officers are also duty bound to ensure that patients are taken care of, attended and provided all medical facility and the hospitals have necessary infrastructure and staff,” the court had observed in its previous order.
The court had issued notice to Delhi, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat as well as to the LNJP Hospital. The States have been asked to status reports on their government hospitals, patient care and the details of the staff, infrastructure, etc. The affidavits along with the reports should be filed through by the Chief Secretaries or Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare of the States. The Director or Medical Superintendent of LNJP Hospital has been ordered to explain the “deplorable state of affairs” in their institution.
It posted the case for July 17.
“The reports show horrific scenes from Delhi and Uttar Pradesh in COVID-19 dedicated hospitals. The deplorable conditions of wards, the pathetic condition of patients… They are seen in wards with dead bodies in the lobby and greeting areas. There is no oxygen or saline drip support. There is no one to attend the patients… The condition of a government hospital in Delhi with 200 beds is that only 17 beds are occupied… Patients are unable to get themselves admitted… What pains the court is no proper care or treatment is given”, Justice Bhushan had said in the last hearing.