Delhi High Court Takes Suo Motu Cognizance to Examine COVID-19 Helpline Numbers

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On 26 May 2020, a Division Bench of two judges took suo motu cognizance in the aforesaid matter. The rationale behind this action was a video, indicating the failure of the Centre and the Delhi Government to provide facilities of hospitalization to a COVID-19 patient.

Brief Facts of the Case

Access to healthcare is a fundamental right of every citizen. But this has become difficult after the outbreak of coronavirus in India. The present case is an exact replica of the same. Dharmendra Bharadwaj’s mother had tested positive for COVID-19 and needed immediate hospitalization. The authorities informed him to arrange for a bed and ventilator in another hospital. He tried reaching out to all hospitals. He dialled all the helpline numbers on various occasions but received no response. In the video, Mr Bhardwaj expresses his helplessness and anguish, and failure of the Government of NCT of Delhi (GNCTD) and the Central Government in regards to the arrangements made for treating COVID-19 patients. In the light of the above situation, the Court took suo motu cognizance of the video.

Arguments before the Court

Mr Rahul Mehra, is the counsel appearing on behalf of the Delhi Government. He informed the Court that “the GNCTD has provided 10 helpline numbers. It includes the ones which Mr Bhardwaj dialled. But, the helpline numbers were not functioning and instructions were issued.”

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Mr. Mehra also informed the Court about the recent press release by GNCTD. It gives the status of the number of beds for serious COVID-19 patients in Private and Government hospitals. He also enlightened the Court about the upcoming launch of a mobile application for the same.

Court’s Observation

The Court has observed that the availing facilities through helplines was not possible. The Court believes that the video has raised questions relating to public concern.

Held

After assessing the circumstances, the Court held that:

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“The helpline number of the GNCTD should provide information to the caller about beds available for the treatment of COVID-19 patients. Also,

  1. The capacity created to deal with calls made on the helpline numbers;
  2. The nature of help rendered, and;
  3. The log maintained for the same if any should also be placed before the Court.”

The Court has directed the Centre and the Delhi Government to submit their status reports on the following aspects:

  1. The arrangements to deal with the hospitalisation of COVID-19 patients.
  2. List of functional helpline numbers operated by the GNCTD and the Central Government
  3. Adequacy of the helpline capacity, and if the same is enough to deal with present and foreseeable cases.

The Court also asked the GNCTD to provide ambulance facility for COVID-19 patients. In pursuance of the matter, the Court appointed Mr. Om Prakash as the Amicus Curiae to assist the Court.


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