State Government Has the Responsibility to Respond to Their People at the Earliest: Gauhati High Court

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Case Excerpt

This petition is for a directive from 07.05.2002 to the Respondents to install the RT-PCR equipment at Civil Hospital in Lunglei, which was granted to the Lunglei District Authorities on 26.06.2020, following a letter issued by the Director, Hospital & Medical Education in Mizoram.

Facts of the Case

Given the pandemic which resulted in a lockdown being imposed in March 2020, the Health Department started taking steps to prepare for the fight against COVID-19 infections. In this regard, the Secretary to the Government of Mizoram, Health Department issued Order No. D.33012/41/2020-HFW(ETCL)/90 dated 14.06.2020 stating that the competent authority was pleased to detail a team of experts to visit Lunglei, to explore the feasibility for establishment of a make-shift Covid-19 RT-PCR diagnostic laboratory at Civil Hospital, Lunglei, to cater to the needs of the 4 districts of south Mizoram and to fulfil the indication made to that effect by the Minister, Health & Family Welfare Deptt., during early March 2020. The DIPR news report of 15 June 2020 indicates that the experts’ group concluded that Lunglei was deemed to be suitable for the three unoccupied rooms suggested for installation at Civil Hospital in RT- PCR. The report also indicated that the functionality of RT-laboratory PCR’s in three rooms, including the acquisition of new RTPCR equipment, would need a minimum of 100 lakhs. In addition, the DIPR news article claimed that the team of experts had repeatedly taken an initiative to establish RT-PCR diagnostical laboratories in Civil Hospital, Lunglei, with the Indian Council of Medical Review (ICMR). The other argument is the Petitioner, that on 26 June 2020, the Lunglei District authorities provided Shri Zodintluanga, MLA, a brand new RTP CR equipment to install an RT-PCR diagnostic laboratory at Lunglei Civilian Hospital. Since the Respondent authorities have not taken any significant efforts to use the donated RT-PCR machine and to set up an RT-PCR diagnostic lab within the District of Lunglei, different NGOs have filed submissions to build an RT-PCR diagnostic laboratory in Lunglei Civil Hospital.

Arguments by Petitioner

Learned Counsel stated that the RT-PCR diagnosis laboratory was not established by the Respondents solely because the machine has been donated to the Opposition MLA. H argues that the State Government cannot play politics/games with the lives of those who profit from the machine. Furthermore, the report by a team of experts formed by the Department of Health on 14 June 2020 and which was started in the DIPR report dated 25 June 2020 show that an RT-PCR diagnostic laboratory at the Lunglei Civil Hospital was desired by the Ministry of Health. Further added he submits that Different national high courts have given guidelines for the prompt installation, in various districts, of an RT-PCR diagnostic laboratory, and this Court ought, therefore, to take similar guidelines.

Arguments by Respondents

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The Learned Counsel stated that the Petitioner did not submit a representation to the relevant authorities before submitting an immediate PIL. The learning council recommends that before the PIL is filed, it is obligatory to give representation to the competent enforcement authority involved about Appendix 37, paragraph 10(g), of the Gauhati High Court Rules of 2011.

Court Analysis

As per the court’s observations, It is not understood why the government does not intend to set up RT- PCR Diagnostic laboratories in all the District Health Departments of Mizoram, in particular, if COVID-19 guidelines for the Effective Control provided for by Order No. 30/3/2020 of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) do not include several district capitals in the State of Mizoram.

Court’s Decision

From the all heard proceedings, The Court concluded that the Learned Advocate General would have to inform the court about steps taken to install the machines, how they are put to use? and technicians that are put to utilize the machine. Further, the court added that instructions will be given for the number of regularly approved positions of laboratory technicians and the number of regularly vacant positions of laboratory technicians as at present. He will also get instructions for the number of routinely approved positions in the Health Department of Microbiologists and Health Workers and the number of current vacancies in these two positions on the date. They must also get instructions on the number of volunteers who volunteer to collect swab samples and to aid with covid testing in the Health Department.

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Click here to read the full Judgement


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