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No rational thinking provided, emergent situation met: Sikkim HC on Covid-19 crisis

The Division Bench of Chief Justice Jitendra Kumar Maheshwari and Justice Bhaskar Raj Pradhan passed this order while hearing a petition regarding Covid-19 management.

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The Sikkim High Court, while hearing a suo motu petition with respect to the management of Covid-19 crisis in the state, has commented, “We do not see nor are we provided with a rational and planned thinking process. Emergent situation seems to have been met on need basis”.

The Division Bench of Chief Justice Jitendra Kumar Maheshwari and Justice Bhaskar Raj Pradhan passed this order while hearing a petition regarding Covid-19 management.

In pursuant to order dated June 17, the State Government had filed a report on June 22, seeking to explain and provide further information.

The Court said the state took several steps to ramp up the health infrastructure and facilities to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We are concerned that the State Government did not feel it necessary to formulate any concrete policy to face the present Covid-19 pandemic. The information provided to us in the form of various reports does indicate that a lot more is to be done to meet the challenges brought by each new wave of Covid-19 pandemic, especially in districts,” observed the Bench.

The Court stated that the Centre as well the State must act in unison to provide the necessary infrastructure to all the districts in Sikkim so that the RT-PCR testing facilities are available for every citizen of the State easily.

The State must continue to increase testing until the positivity rate, which is alarmingly high, is brought under absolute control. This becomes imperative due to the fact that with the onset of monsoons, which lasts for several months in a year and landslides which completely cut off the districts from capital Gangtok, making it extremely difficult for people to travel all the way to Gangtok to avail the facilities here, it said.

The Court noted, “We take note of the fact that as per the report dated June 22, 2021 the population of persons above 18 years who at present can and should be vaccinated stands at 4,72,000. We also note with appreciation that at present, 3,01,679 persons have been vaccinated with the first dose and 83,575 persons have been vaccinated with both the doses. This also means that 1,70,321 persons are not yet vaccinated even with the first dose”.

“Considering the rather small population yet to be vaccinated, the number of vaccination achieved by the State within the short  period, the present disease burden leading to high positivity and death rate coupled with the inadequate medical facilities in the State of Sikkim it may not be inappropriate for the Centre and the State to ensure that the entire population of the State which is eligible for vaccination is vaccinated at the earliest by increasing the State quota of vaccines”, the Court said.

“A number of vaccination centers have been set up in all the four districts with both man power and infrastructure which can be utilized to its optimum if the Government of India would provide more vaccines. The State on its turn should ensure equitable distribution of the vaccines in all the four districts on a broad policy decision keeping in mind the population ratio and all other equitable considerations which would further help the State achieve the desired target, faster and better.

“We therefore, implore the Centre as well as the State to make available vaccines to achieve the goal of vaccinating the entire population of the State of Sikkim, who are eligible to be vaccinated but are yet to be, keeping in mind the above factors.

The Court directed the State to furnish details of the measures taken and facilities  provided vis-à-vis the guidelines issued by way of an affidavit including the human resources.

The Court also noted the fact that the State Government had a preliminary meeting of the technical committee on June 14, 2021 to discuss the measures for COVID-19 third wave. However, we note with concern that no timeline has been set up for submission of technical details to formulate the policy and for taking various measures to ramp up the infrastructural medical and clinical facilities. This become more important in view of the indication received that the third wave could hit within weeks.

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“We note the oral submission made by the Additional Advocate General that the policy should be in place within a week and augmentation done as per the policy before the onslaught of the third wave. The Government of India has come out with various guidelines which are available in the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare website like the Guidelines for Management of Covid-19 in Children (below 18  years) dated 18th June, 2021, Guidelines on Operationalization of Covid-19 Care Services for Children and Adolescents of June 2021 etc., which should be taken into consideration along with all other guidelines, instructions and study materials including the rich experiences of the State medical team before formulating the policy and for augmenting the State resources”,  the Court observed.

“List the matter for July 7, before which the State as well as the Centre, may file necessary affidavits showing compliance of the directions issued by this court from time to time and reports as indicated hereinabove”, the Court ordered.

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