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It Is the Moral Duty and Constitutional Mandate of the State To Save Its People From the Pandemic: Uttarakhand High Court

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The District Magistrate, Dehradun on 26.04.2021 had issued a list of oxygen suppliers. However, a further inquiry had disclosed that out of the ten oxygen suppliers, only three of them had oxygen gas available with them. The learned counsel prayed that the District Magistrate, Dehradun should be directed to rectify the said list, and to publish the revised list for the benefit of the people at large. It was also suggested that like the States of Rajasthan and Telangana, the State of Uttarakhand should also attempt to create a Real-Time Portal, whereby the availability of beds in each hospital could be informed to the people on an hourly or two-hourly basis.

Arguments before the court

The counsel contended that a large number of people required to be helped while they were quarantined at home. Thus, the NGOs and the Asha Workers, which are willing to undertake the duty, should be allowed to operate in areas demarcated by the District Magistrates, where the Asha Workers and the respective NGO can look after the essential needs of the patients and their family members. Since there was a shortage of the Remdesivir, and there existed black-marketing of the particular medicine. As per the learned counsel, the problem of black-marketing could be solved by affixing QR Codes on the medicine. Further, the Drug Inspectors should be instructed to carry out an inspection of the Drug Stores to make sure that the Remdesivir is neither hoarded nor sold at over-charged prices to the customers. Lastly, the learned counsel suggested that since a large number of patients have recovered from Covid-19, the Government must make efforts to motivate such patients to donate their plasma. Plasma therapy had proven to be extremely successful in combating the pandemic. It was suggested that the Blood Banks should be encouraged to collect the plasma in each city or town of the State. The collected plasma should be made available to the hospitals working within these cities or towns to carry out plasma therapy.

The learned counsel for the State of Uttarakhand submitted that the State was already battling the pandemic on a war footing. Thus, it may not be possible for the State to immediately implement the suggestions made by the learned counsel for the petitioner. The counsel prayed that sufficient time must be given to the State to implement the suggestions made by the learned counsel.

Court’s Observation:          

The court observed that it is essential that the State must endeavour to save the lives of as many people as possible. It is the moral duty and the constitutional mandate of the State to protect its citizens from the pandemic. The State must provide its citizens with real time-critical information. The State should also coordinate with other States, such as Rajasthan and Telangana, where the soft wares have been created already for informing the public about the critical information through Real-Time Portal. The State of Telangana and Rajasthan had already created their Real-Time Portals for notifying the public about the availability of beds, oxygen cylinders and flow meters.

Court’s Decision:

The Court directed that the State shall consider seeking necessary software from other States, and of establishing a Real-Time Portal for such critical information to be disseminated to the public at the earliest. Since the list published by the District Magistrate, Dehradun was discovered to be flawed, the District Magistrate, Dehradun was directed to correct the same, and to immediately notify the public in District-Dehradun with respect to the availability of oxygen with the suppliers available in District Dehradun. The competent Authority under the Drugs Act was directed to instruct the Drug Inspectors to inspect the Drug Stores working within their jurisdictions, and to ensure that there was no overcharging or shortage of Remdesivir. The respective Drug Inspector should make sure that QR Codes are affixed on each packet of Remdesivir. The Government should try to motivate the people to undertake plasma donation. The learned Advocate General for the State was directed to submit an interim report regarding the issue, whether the directions, given by this Court by this order, had been implemented, and the extent up to which these directions have been implemented by the State.

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