Sunday, February 5, 2023

Arming Corona Warriors

The Delhi High Court had taken up cudgels on behalf of health workers who are risking their lives and working without proper equipment even as they are attacked and abused. By Gautam Mishra

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The Delhi High Court has taken the state and central governments to task in dozens of orders regarding conditions for “Corona Warriors”. They covered PPE kits, proper accommodation, allowing unhindered transportation, etc.

In a recent case, filed by a senior citizen, Dr Anil Dhalla, direction was sought for the district magistrate to not allow or grant permission for the illegal running of guest houses or to lend a portion of the property concerned to any person who can be a threat to the life and safety of the residents. However, Justice Asha Menon, taking a strict stand for the protection of healthcare workers, observed that no one has a right to ask for the removal of resident health workers from their neighbourhood because of an unrealistic fear of Covid-19.

Meanwhile, another plea filed by the All India Lawyers’ Union sought directions to scrap a Death Audit Committee (DAC) constituted by the Delhi government. A divisional bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan dismissed the petition, observing that data was being collected from hospitals in a proper format and there was no doubt that the members of the Committee were experts in their subject field.

Appreciating this judgment, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia stated:

“I am glad that honourable Delhi HC has put an end to ugly politics being played by some opposition leaders on such a sensitive issue.” Sisodia said the Delhi government was providing correct numbers related to the issue every day. AAP spokesperson Raghav Chadha stated: “I think the High Court judgment is a tight slap on the face of BJP and they should immediately apologise for this frivolous and politically motivated allegation.”

Calling the case politically influenced, he tweeted: “Delhi HC upholds the sanctity of figures of deaths published by AAP Govt. It concludes that there is no arbitrariness, discrimination, or fabrication of data. It is shameful that the BJP chose to level baseless & motivated allegations against AAP even in this humanitarian crisis.” The bench noted that there seemed to be no arbitrariness or discrimination nor was there any material to show fabrication of data concerning the number of Covid-19 cases and the number of deaths due to it. It further said that the petition was entirely based on presumptions and conjecture based on news reports without any research. “We are not sitting in appeal against the reports published by the Death Audit Committee from time to time. Moreover, there is no basis for the allegations to the effect that the Committee is not working properly,” said the Court.

The PIL was filed by the All India Lawyers’ Union through its secretary, advocate Sunil Kumar. It alleged that the Delhi government was not presenting the real data and sought directions to it to publish data related to Covid-19 positive cases and the death toll through the daily bulletin every 24 hours.

The Court said that the DAC was expected to publish data related to the number of deaths and Covid-19 cases only when it was properly analysed and directed the Committee to maintain such data properly.

Another petition sought directions for opening the closed border with Haryana and asked why Corona Warriors such as doctors, paramedics, nurses, sanitation workers and Delhi police personnel were listed as essential and given the right of free movement by the centre. But the Haryana government said that people involved in essential services can easily move between Delhi and Haryana on production of e-passes, and they shall “not be quarantined unless and until they test positive for COVID-19”.

In another PIL, a single-judge bench of Justice Asha Menon observed that no one has the right to ask for the removal of resident health workers from their neighbourhood. The government cannot escape its obligation to provide a protected environment to senior citizens and other residents living adjacent to such buildings which are occupied by health workers.

The PIL had sought directions to the government to ensure that all directives laid down by the Covid-19 management were carried out in and around property No 197-C, Cariappa Marg, MB  Road, Delhi, and ensure that no guest house was run illegally. The petitioner also sought to prohibit the government from granting any permission, licence, or approval to run any guest house in the vicinity of Cariappa Marg till all the directives laid down by the government were complied with and the safety and well-being of the residents assured.

The counsel for the Delhi government stated that health workers were frontline warriors of Covid-19 and cannot be asked to move away from the property in question. The petitioner said that as he was a senior citizen living with five others like him and having comorbidities, they were anxious about their health and well-being as measures relating to hygiene were not being adhered to by the occupants of the property who were numerous in number. This, he said, opened him and other residents to a great risk of infection.

The High Court directed the Delhi government and the South Delhi Municipal Corporation to take all action such as fumigation and sanitisation, similar to the measures being adopted for containment/buffer zones, in the area in question. This protocol could also be used in other zones/areas where health workers were residing, it said, so as to assuage the fears of other residents in the locality.

Lead Picture: UNI

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