The High Court of Karnataka has taken up writ petitions filed seeking directions on various issues concerning the current covid-19 pandemic and the Nationwide lockdown. The High Court of Karnataka has also asked for State’s response on measures being taken for protection of health care workers, and provision of protective healthcare equipment.
The issues in the writ petitions being taken up by the Court are:
- The issue of food security
- The issue of rural distress.
- The issue of farmers and labourers working on the farms
- The incident of healthcare workers being assaulted.
- Breach of social distancing guidelines.
- Protection of health workers.
- Provision of personal protective equipment to Healthcare workers
- Payment of salaries to paramedical and ASHA workers
The Court noted that the doctors, nurses, health workers and ASHA workers were assaulted in the State, and drew attention of the Additional Advocate General towards the incident, and has asked the State Government to place an action taken report regarding the incident before the court. The Court regarding the issue of breach of guidelines of social distancing made note of an e-mail received complaining about a marriage ceremony held the house of a prominent political leader. The Court has asked the State government to respond to that aspect by submitting a report.
The Court also noted that there have been a large number of instances of domestic violence as consequence of the lockdown, asking the State Government to inform the Court regarding the action that has been taken regarding such complaints of domestic violence received. The State government has also been asked to state all the helplines that are available across the State for such people who want to complain of such incidents.
The Court has also considered the issue of people suffering from mental disturbances during the present situation created by COVID-19 and the lockdown, and the assistance that is being rendered to them. The counsel on behalf of the Karnataka State Legal Services Authority stated that passes are regularly being issued to the paralegal volunteers but the Deputy Commissioner of Bengaluru Urban District is refusing to issue such passes. An application has been made by the District Legal Services Authority for issuance of 200 passes, and the Court has directed the Deputy Commissioner of Bengaluru Urban District to immediately consider the request made by the DLSA, Bengaluru Urban District and to issue passes.
The Court, regarding incident of attacks on healthcare workers while trying to quarantine people, stated that the issue of providing adequate police protection to the doctors, nurses, paramedical staff and Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA) workers is a very important issue, and the State Government must therefore place on record the policy decisions that are being taken by the State, and adequate protection must be provided to these healthcare workers.
The State government is also required to state what measures are being taken to prevent such incidents in the future, as the safety of the health care workers is of paramount importance, and formulate a policy which will apply to all doctors, nurses, paramedical staff, etc across the State and ensure their protection.
The Court stated that the State has not responded to the Court’s query regarding whether PPE kits have reached the doctors and the nursing staff across the State and whether equipment’s like masks and hand-gloves are made available across the State to health care facilities, such as Primary Health Centres. The State has however taken steps to procure and manufacture the Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) kits and other equipment’s.
The Counsel appearing for Karnataka State Legal Services Authority, in one of the petitions, brought to the Court’s attention that in various districts, masks are still not being made available to many health workers at grass-roots level and the State Government has not responded on the question whether the PPE Kits can be made available at a cost to private hospitals and to private clinics.
The Court has asked for State’s response on the statement of Additional Solicitor General of India stating the Central Government has recently distributed 2,83,910 PPE Kits and about 20 lakhs N-95 masks to various States. The Additional Solicitor General of India will also take instruction on the aspect of the Government E-Marketplace (GEM) Portal and state whether it can be thrown open to private health care workers to enable private health care workers to buy PPE Kits and other equipment’s.
The Court has asked for States respond on the non-payment of the salaries of paramedical workers and ASHA workers in the State, and also stated that the State is expected to ensure that no nurses, paramedical staff or ASHA workers are deprived of their salaries. The High Court will considered the issue of food security and rural distress in its next hearing on April 24th 2020.
-India Legal Bureau