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Jammu & Kashmir High Court Addresses issues regarding COIVD-19 and Lockdown; Issues Notices; Asks for Status Reports

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The Jammu and Kashmir High Court on Friday has passed slew of directions on various issues relating to shortage of essential commodities on account of black-marketing and hoarding done by the shops during lockdown, deficiencies in the availability of the test kits and ventilators, etc and has also asked for status reports regarding the same before the next hearing.

A division bench headed by the Chief Justice Gita Mittal & Justice Rajnesh Oswal has passed the following directions while hearing a suo motu plea through video conferencing on various issues in the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir and Union Territory of Ladakh, emerging on account of complete lockdown in view of outbreak of COVID 19 pandemic.

  • Need of the healthcare personnel : The Court noted that the issue of ensuring provisions for needs of healthcare personnel is a very important matter and needs urgent attention, and asked the Secretary of the Health Department to file an action taken report before the Court.
  • Provisions for Dependants, families of healthcare personnel, government personnel and officials engaged in COVID-19 management : The Court has drawn attention of the authorities to a specific issue regarding welfare of COVID-19 warriors which needs to be addressed on priority. The Court has asked the Secretary of Social Welfare Department to place a mechanism to ensure that provisions in this regard are made available, take action and also inform the Court regarding the implementation of this mechanism and instances of specific assistance that is  rendered to dependents or family members of the personnel engaged in COVID-19 issues
  • Provision of Information during the Lockdown : The Court noted that neither the plan nor the information which is to be publicized has been conceptualised and placed before the Court. Therefore, the Department of Health and Medical Education of the State has been asked to place a report regarding the issue. The information relevant in the current times especially the telephone numbers should be publicised adequately enough to ensure that it is known to the public at large, and also examine the possibility of putting this information in the public domain by using the messaging facilities on mobile numbers etc.
  • Availability of Protective equipments to healthcare professionals : The Court stated that adequate personal protective gears, N-95 masks, triple layer masks, hand sensitizers, gloves and other material are available to meet the requirement. The Department of Health and Education should ensure that adequate equipments of every kind is available for the health care personnel and all other personnel involved in any aspect of COVID-19 issues.
  • Status of residents of J&K/Ladakh lodged in prisons in other parts of India : A High Powered Committee was appointed in terms of the order of the Supreme Court of India on 23rd March 2020 with regard to Prisoners. The Court stated that the health of the detenues in Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh is being monitored on daily basis and the health report of the detenues has been placed before the Court. However, a report regarding release of prisoners in accordance with the directions of the High Powered Committee has to be submitted before the next hearing.
  • Safety, Care, Health and Violence against Healthcare Professionals and Clinical Establishments: The Central Government had acknowledged that there is a need to take prompt action in instances of misbehave with healthcare personnel and the same was also emphasised in interaction with State Governments during the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak. Orders for arresting landlords who tried to evict healthcare personnel were also issued by several State Governments. The Ministry of Health & Family Welfare has also issued an advisory to all States to consider immediate measures for inculcating an effective sense of security among the doctors on duty. The High Court showing concern regarding this issue has asked the Amicus Curiae to examine the matter and file a report in this regard.
  • Issue of Impact of pollen from Poplar Trees : The Counsels had shown concern regarding the issue of indiscriminate felling of trees which has severe adverse economic and ecological impact which is irreversible. The Court noted that there was an error on part of the authorities since they directed the cutting of female poplar trees on account of pollen generated by them, since pollen is generated by the male of the specie and not by the female tree. It cannot be denied that there is a grave urgency in the matter, and the very basis of the issue and desirability of felling of female poplar trees needs to be revisited before these trees are felled.
  • Lack of efficient internet facility in the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh :The Amicus Curiae submitted before the Court that on account of non-availability of the 4G services, the students in the Union Territories are unable to access the educational courses being sent by institutions in order to enable the students to cope with the classes which they are missing. The same issue is also under consideration before the Supreme Court in the PIL filed by the ‘Foundation for Media Professionals’ and notice has been issued to the Jammu and Kashmir administration. The High Court has asked the Home Department of the State to file a status report on this issue.
  • Welfare of pregnant women and infants: The Counsels raised concern regarding the difficulties being faced by pregnant women and infants on account of insufficient facilities being available for them along with lack of information as to how to proceed for medical assistance and vaccinations etc. The Court has asked the authorities to ensure that adequate publicity is given to the manner in which people  would be looked after.
  • Limitation on the messaging quota of the High Courts in Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh as is imposed by NIC: A limitation has been imposed by the NIC on the messaging facility provided to the Courts which includes the High Court as well as the District Courts. On account of the restriction in the movement, extensive recourse is being taken to the messaging facility in the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir as well as Ladakh. The Courts are circulating not only court and case related information but also information which is of grave public importance as is being made available by various government departments. Considering the present situation, the Counsel requested the Court to enhance the limit or remove the upper cap on the messaging. The Court noted that the requirement is justified and absolutely essential in the current times
  • e-Connectivity of Courts : In view of the order of the Department of Justice, Government of India, BSNL has to provide WAN connectivity at various complexes through out India under e-Courts MMP Phase-I. The Counsel submitted that BSNL has implemented the same at various locations and NIC, on its part, has provided facility to such Court users to access the government websites/portals hosted on NIC National Cloud and NIC State Cloud but without internet access. The Court has directed the nodal officer of BSNL to collaborate with NIC and address the any issue being faced by the BSNL which is required to be addressed by NIC, so that the matter of making available the e-facilities to all courts is addressed. The Court has also asked for a joint action taken report by both BSNL and NIC before the next hearing.

The matter would now be heard on 16th April, 2020.

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