A writ petition was filed in the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Constitution to issue a writ of mandamus. The petition seeks direction for respondents to constitute high-level expert monitoring committee for the state of Madhya Pradesh, inter alia provide sufficient PPE kits, medical assistance for the affected patients, set up testing labs in rural areas and increase the quantum of tests performed.
The petitioner, Mr. Chinmay Mishra, is the president of Madhya Pradesh Saravoday Mandal, asserted that the state was in a political crisis in pre-lockdown period and remains to have no concrete political leadership to mitigate the situation. He also submits that lack of information and transparency has led to unawareness among the public adding to the wrath of the virus.
The petition was filed in the Supreme Court, which deemed it to be dismissed as withdrawn. The apex court has directed the petitioner to approach the Madhya Pradesh High Court which shall have the original jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution.
Issues to be presented before the Court
- Whether the state government be directed to take distinctive measures to mitigate the most affected cities of the state.
- Whether the failure of state administration is countered by constituting a high-level expert committee.
- Whether the state government must ensure the welfare of certain section of the society such as children, pregnant women, elderly people and workers in unorganized sectors.
Analysis of the petition
The petition highlights various pitfalls which led to the failure of the health program in Madhya Pradesh even during the lockdown period. It describes the systematic fall of the administrative and executive bodies while responding to the situation. Following are the submissions worth considering while ascertaining the special measures;
- New leadership came into existence on 23.03.2020, whereas the spread of infection began from the early days of March’20. When the situation was at the peak, there was no appointment of a health minister to check the measures. The government was dependent on the task force formed by the ruling political party only under political leadership and no medical expertise. The absence of a proper administrative structure and a concrete plan led to the omission of the constitutional duties.
- The petition apprises the inadequacy of testing kits and laboratories resulting in a smaller number of tests and a higher risk of transmission. The results of the sample tests reach the patient within 4-5 days deteriorating the condition beyond treatment. In the event of such circumstances, the state administration has failed to provide basic health facilities to the people. Unfortunately, people have died due to non-availability of facilities at medical centres, although the Essential Services Maintenance Act was in force.
- The plight of children and women has also been discussed by iterating some gruesome cases in the state. It included the death of women and her child and untimely death of a man due to denial of treatment despite the orders of administrative bodies. A pregnant lady had to carry her dead child in the womb for four long days after the hospitals refused medication. It has also cited an order dated 14.03.2020 wherein the concerned authorities are directed to provide take-home ration to children between the age of 3 to 6 years. However, no ration has been provided owing to the closure of all Anganwari centres. The petitioner claims that the non-availability of ration at the public distribution shops may lead to starvation in the state. Till date, there is no announcement of relief schemes concerning food and shelter for 37000 homeless families inhabiting the state.
- The petition alleges of blind-eye towards the unorganized sector as the press notification dated 25.03.2020 dealt with certain benefits to vulnerable societies, mostly covering workers in organized sectors. While the infection affects everyone similarly the government schemes intend relief only to a fraction of the state’s population.
- The lack of proper sanitation and essential food and water facilities in the hospitals and quarantine facilities have forced the infected to escape the centres. This shall be the aftermath of non-availability of services because the integration of infected in the society will lead to rising in the number of cases at an exponential rate.
The relevance of the petition
The petition highlights the need for special measures in the state of Madhya Pradesh owing to the failure of state machinery in the recent political crisis and lack of resources such as testing kits and labs. However, a similar petition is being filed in the Madhya Pradesh High Court with similar concerns by the victims of Bhopal Gas Tragedy.
The incident led to a landmark judgement on the absolute liability of the enterprises to compensate the plaintiffs affected due to its inherently dangerous activity. During the current global health emergency, the survivors have become vulnerable to the infection due to low capacity of lungs and weakened immunity. Out of the total deaths in Bhopal itself, 90% of the deceased were survivors of the worst industrial disaster in the world, suffering from chronic illness. This highlights the gravity of the situation in Madhya Pradesh and the need for reciprocal action at its earliest.
Therefore, the present petition must receive detail considerations to ensure early detection of the infection as it targets and identifies different vulnerable groups. The primary objective of the petition to constitute a high- level expert committee may prove to be the most efficient way to initialize the process.
Current Statistics in Madhya Pradesh
Madhya Pradesh is one of the most affected states in India. As on 30.04.2020, the state has 2561 confirmed cases and 119 deaths. It accounts for 10% of deaths in the country. Moreover, Indore has the worst mortality rate among all the cities.
The statistics indicate the eleventh hour and need for special measures in the state.
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