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Allahabad HC: Constitute Public Grievance Cell In Districts to Address Grievances Locally

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In the present PIL, several issues regarding inhuman conditions at quarantine centres and better treatment to corona positive people were considered. The Allahabad HC ordered the formation of a three-member Pandemic Public Grievance Committee in every district of Uttar Pradesh.

Petitioner’s Submission

The hearing was conducted through video conferencing owing to the current pandemic times. The Court heard several learned advocates appearing for the Petitioners as well as Respondents. The learned Advocates appearing in this PIL suggested that the government be directed to open a Public Grievance Cell in every district of the State so that grievances of the people could be addressed locally. This suggestion came from various news items getting viral qua complaints of the people in various districts regarding non-cooperation of the government and private hospital staff and the district administration for making available life-saving drugs like Remdesivir and Tocilizumap and providing oxygen.

The next issue considered by the Court was the compensation to be paid to the persons who succumbed with COVID-19 because of discharging duty in the elections. Regarding this, the lawyers submitted that the amount decided by the government was too meagre. 

Respondent’s Submission

The District Magistrate of Meerut appeared again through video conferencing in compliance with the Court’s last order and supplied the inquiry report he got conducted by a two-member committee.

In the affidavit filed by Sri Badugu Deva Paulson, Secretary (Home), Government of U.P., Lucknow vide paragraph 7; it was stated that in rural areas, Community Health Centres and Primary Health Centres were being monitored, and proper treatment was being administered to the patients even from the stage of Covid ILI symptoms.

Furthermore, on a pointed query qua the availability of oxygen, the statistics of 12,381 persons who were found having breathing problem, Sri Manish Goyal, learned Additional Advocate General informed the Court that a sufficient number of oxygen concentrators, BiPAP machines and High Flow Nasal Cannula Masks had been provided to the Community Health Centres. In this regard, directives had also been issued by the Additional Chief Secretary (Medical Health and Family Welfare). 

Also, Sri Amrendra Nath Tripathi, learned Advocate filed an intervention application on behalf of Sun Hospital, Lucknow, taking a plea in response to the show-cause notice issued by the authorities. A reply was immediately submitted on 5th May 2021 before 5:00 pm, but no receipt was given to them by the authorities. He further submitted that on 1st and 2nd May 2021, there was no supply of oxygen cylinders to the hospital by the District Administration, and false statements had been given about the supply of oxygen to the hospital by the District Magistrate.

He submitted that instead of considering the reply and verifying the facts, the District Magistrate, Lucknow rushed to lodge the FIR against the hospital to show the Court’s order. He submitted that he was ready to show the inventory/ stock register of the hospital where the oxygen cylinder receiving was entered and submitted that in the wake of FIR, the hospital management was being subjected to harassment and was not able to treat Covid patients who were admitted in the hospital.

Court’s Observations

The Court carefully examined the affidavit of Sri Badugu Deva Paulson and found that neither required information as mandated by its order was given, nor compliance had been made to the various directions contained in paragraph 19 of the order. Also, the district-based portal to be made for the health bulletin issued by the Covid hospital, both government and private, had not been updated. Similarly, other directions related to ensuring proper availability of the life savings drugs/ life support systems like BiPAP machines and High Flow Nasal Cannula Masks have not complied. 

The Court said that Government officials and the hospitals could not be permitted to shirk away from their responsibility in ensuring that the dead body of deceased persons is disposed of strictly as per the Covid Protocol.

The Court said that a three-member Pandemic Public Grievance Committee should be formed, and in rural areas, a complaint can be made directly to the SDM of concerned Tehsil who shall transmit the same to Pandemic Public Grievance Committee. 

Further, the Court observed that the compensation was significantly less. To compensate the loss of life of the bread earner of the family and that too because of the deliberate act on the part of the State and State Election Commission to force them to perform duties in the absence of RTPCR support, the Court said that the compensation must be at least to the tune of Rs.1,00,00,000/-.  

Court’s Decision

The Court directed that in every district of the State, a three-member Pandemic Public Grievance Committee shall be formed and that would include Chief Judicial Magistrate or a judicial officer of similar rank to be nominated by the District Judge, Professor of a Medical College to be nominated by the Principal of Medical College and if there is no medical college then a level-3/4 doctor of district hospital to be nominated by Chief Medical Superintendent of that district hospital and an administrative officer of the rank of Additional District Magistrate to be nominated by the District Magistrate.

The Court further directed that until a further decision is given on the matter related to the hospital, no coercive measures shall be taken against the Sun Hospital and its staff under the FIR lodged. The Court also directed the Central Government to place before the Court about how it proposed to inoculate those physically challenged persons who cannot be brought to the vaccination centres and then those who cannot make online registration. 

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