The Delhi High Court on Wednesday gave several directions to the Urban Shelter Improvement Board, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, and Delhi Government to ensure treatment of people residing in the night shelters and providing adequate facilities to contain the spread of COVID-19 infection.
A division bench comprising of Justice Manmohan & Justice Sanjeev Narula observed that “We are, therefore, of the view that a system should be put in place where sufficient checks and vigilance is maintained with regard to maintenance of facilities at the night shelters in question, and other night shelter being run and managed by DUSIB in the NCT of Delhi.”
The Court gave the order while hearing a PIL filed by Karan Seth seeking directions regarding the treatment and accommodation for hundreds of outstations patients and their attendants who were earlier being treated at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi (AIIMS) for several ailments as AIIMS stand converted into an exclusive facility to treat Covid-19 patients.
Earlier on the last hearing Mrs. Rachna Malik, who is a volunteer, and who has been regularly visiting the said night shelter at AIIMS, said before the Court that “there is no potable drinking water facility at the night shelter, and she has been providing drinking water at the said night shelter by purchasing the same.” She also said that “Though the toilets are cleaned twice a day, due to lack of water, they get soiled very fast, and there is also choking off the sewer line.”
On this the Court today observed that “What emerges from the reports and the video recordings is that the shortcomings pointed out by Ms. Malik in relation to lack of water, which was leading to unhygienic sanitation conditions; lack of drinking water; lack of record being maintained of the persons/visitors visiting the night shelter home, are correct. The version projected by Mr. Sharma, on the last date, in respect of the aforesaid aspects does not appear to be correct and we reject the same.”
Hence, the Court directed DUSIB to accredit NGOs and individual social workers who are associated with the night shelters and to involve the NGOs and individual social workers in the matter of supervision of such as night shelters. Any grievances, complaints, or suggestions that DUSIB mayreceive in respect of any of its night shelters from such NGOs, or social workers, should firstly be taken on record and actioned without any delay.
Ms. Malik further informed the Court that in the night shelter in question, even basic facilities like hand sanitizers/ liquid soap dispensers have not been provided.
However, Mr. ParvinderChauhan appearing for DUSIB assured the Court that hand sanitizers would certainly be provided without any delay. The Court Directed Mr. Chauhan to do the same within 1 day and those liquid soap dispensers be also provided in the night shelter at AIIMS. Whereas, Same facilities are directed to be provided at other night shelters operated by DUSIB within this week.
The Court has also directed DUSIB to ensure that only patients and their immediate attendants are permitted to occupy the night shelters at AIIMS, and other night shelters in the vicinity of other Government hospitals in Delhi. All other occupants, who are not receiving treatment at the concerned Government hospital, should be shifted to the other night shelters managed by DUSIB.
The Court has directed the authorities at AIIMS and DUSIB to discuss over the issue that AIIMS could take over the night shelter in the VishramSadan complex, and manage the same like the other VishramSadans to the exclusion of DUSIB and arrive at an understanding on all aspects, including the financial aspects.
The bench while appreciating the efforts of Mr. and Mrs. Malik stated that “their efforts have to be appreciated and lauded by all. We, therefore, hope and expect that the officers of DUSIB, including Mr. Sharma, would appreciate the contribution made by Mr. & Ms. Malik in the right perspective, as they do not haveanything personal against any officers of DUSIB. All that they have done is to highlight the shortcomings in the management of the night shelter of DUSIB. We, therefore, do not expect Mr. & Ms. Malik, or any inmate of the night shelter who came on record to disclose the prevailing position, to be targeted in any way.”
Whereas the Court made it clear to the respondents that if any grievance is raised in this respect – which is found to be correct, we would not hesitate to take strict action, including initiation of criminal contempt proceedings against the concerned officials.
On the issue of people staying at night shelter being tested positive COVID-19 and cases not being dealt with properly the Court directed the Health Department of the GNCTD to look into this aspect so that such situations do not recur in the future.
The Court further found out that there is lack of Communication protocol between AIIMS and GNCTD, regarding this issue the Court has directed Any communication between AIIMS and GNCTD about Covid-19 patients should be addressed to the Nodal Officers of the other party. Let the particulars of the Nodal Officers be exchanged between AIIMS and the GNCTD during the day and further directed both AIIMS and the GNCTD to respond to the correspondences that they exchange, without any delay.
“We direct AIIMS to look into the case history of each of these 20 persons who have been admitted to the AIIMS COVID-19 facility at Jhajjhar, and take a case by case decision,” the Court stated in its order.
-India Legal Bureau