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Death of Covid-19 Patients Just Because of Non-Supplying of Oxygen to Hospitals Is Criminal Act and Not Less Than Genocide: Allahabad High Court

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Petitioner’s Submission

In the present PIL, whose hearing was conducted in an online mode, the Court has heard several learned advocates and one law student as well.

Sri Anuj Singh learned Advocate submitted that though the Government has created a portal to show the availability of Level-2 and Level-3 beds in Covid wards and ICUs in various private as well as government hospitals, the data fed for display in the portal was not correct. He gave an instant example of one Hari Prasad Institution of Medical Sciences, Lucknow, where the portal showed 190 beds as vacant in Level-2 category in the morning but on being contacted through the mobile number provided, the hospital informed him that there was no bed available. When he pointed a query as to why the portal was showing a vacant position in the hospital, he received a reply that the data was not updated. He also placed a similar case of Kings George Medical University Hospital.

It was also put forward before the Court that the patients who were admitted to various private hospitals including Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, Lucknow, were not taken good care of. It was argued that though the Government had rushed to engage private hospitals to meet the requirement of the people in this pandemic, it had not been able to ensure that these private hospitals treated the people appropriately who were admitted as Covid patients. 

Further, Sri Raghav Dwivedi, learned Advocate submitted that there was an acute shortage of Remdesivir not only in Government hospitals but also in private hospitals. He further mentioned that the referral letter system to be obtained from the Chief Medical Officer and the District Magistrate of the concerned district so as to make available Remdesivir had further complicated the things. And since there was no supply of Remdesivir to the private hospitals except on a reference being made through Chief Medical Officer in the District and those admitted in the private hospitals were not being administered Remdesivir.

Furthermore, Sri Utsav Mishra, a 3rd-year law student, in his application raised the issue of Police keeping the oxygen cylinder, Remdesivir Injection and Oximeter confiscated from illegal possessions, in the Malkhana of various districts, whereas Remdesivir Injection and Oxygen cylinder which was widely in demand could have been released to the district administration and should not have been wasted in the name of case property. He also submitted that RTPCR reports were being given after much delay i.e. 3-4 days after the sample was collected which was not a happy situation in the public interest because those who samples were collected if they were left free and roamed about in society might infect others also and also they might infect family members at home. 

Sri Amrendra Nath Singh learned Senior Advocate submitted that restrictions on public movements whether in the name of curfew or lockdown were the only way to check the spread of Covid and break the chain thereof. 

Respondent’s Submission

Sri Manish Goyal, learned Additional Advocate General appearing on behalf of the State prayed for two days further time by means of a miscellaneous application to comply with the Court’s latest order. He submitted that a comprehensive affidavit was under preparation to bring about the desired information. He submitted that Government was quite conscious and worried about the current Covid surge and accordingly had not only decided for two days weekend curfew but even extended it until the coming Wednesday. 

Further, he submitted that he will take up the issue with the State Government so that proper disposal of the articles like oxygen cylinder, Remdesivir Injection and oximeter could be done without wastage.

Court’s Observation

The Court appreciated that the government ultimately realised the importance of putting in lockdown to the public movements in general and decided to impose full day and night long curfew for consecutively five days. The Court said that such steps should be taken further in future so that not only people but the day and night toiling front Frontline Corona warriors and workers both in medical lines and civil and police administration get some respite from this current surge of a pandemic to serve people in a better way. 

The Court observed that although the Government was claiming to have proper infrastructure and facilities to confront the ongoing situation, in reality, the management of the Government had failed. It further observed how the online portals are showing that the beds and other requisite facilities were available, but actually there was a scarcity of the beds and other requisites in the hospitals. The Court found that the news which was going viral on social media and on other platforms were showing a quite contrary picture to one claimed by the Government that there was a sufficient supply of oxygen.

The Court observed that the death of Covid patients just for non-supplying of oxygen to the hospitals was a criminal act and not less than a genocide by those who have been entrusted the task to ensure continuous procurement and supply chain of the liquid medical oxygen. 

Court’s Decision

The Court directed the State to ensure sufficient supply of Remdesivir and Tocilizumab drugs to all the hospitals and to take immediate remedial measures. Further, the Court directed the District Magistrate, Lucknow and District Magistrate, Meerut to enquire into the matter of news items getting viral within 48 hours and submit their reports on the next date fixed respectively. 

Furthermore, it directed Sri Goyal to look into the matter and come up with an affidavit showing the testing capacity of RTPCR Lab for the districts Lucknow and Prayagraj, Varanasi, Kanpur Nagar, Meerut, Gorakhpur, Ghaziabad, Gautam Budh Nagar, Agra and Jhansi by the next date fixed. The Court also directed the District Judge, Meerut to appoint any Judicial officer as Nodal officer in his district and place the report before the Court by the next date fixed.

The matter was adjourned and was directed to come up again on 7th May 2021 at 11:00 am. 

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