In the case of Sanpreet Singh Ajmani vs. Union of India and others the Uttarakhand High Court responded to public interest litigation filed by a practising advocate of the High Court under Article 226 of the constitution espousing public cause for the benefit of healthcare workers involved in the ongoing fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
The petitioner in the PIL had prayed for the issuance of a writ or direction like mandamus commanding the respondents to ensure that all healthcare workers are provided with nutritious food, clean clothes and accommodation.
He also insisted that the guidelines issued by the World Health Organization regarding the rights and duties of healthcare workers including the key considerations for occupational safety and health should be implemented. The PIL also demanded availability of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) including medical gloves, starch apparels, medical masks, goggles, face shields, respirators, shoe covers etc. and also stated that such workers should be paid salary at par with the regular working employees of the hospital.
The first contention of the petitioner is that the doctors, nurses and other medical staff, who are the frontline warriors in the ongoing fight against COVID 19 pandemic, are most vulnerable of being affected by the coronavirus as they have not been provided with appropriate personal protective equipment. It was further contended that the health and safety of the Corona frontline warriors were of utmost importance as any infection to them would create a shortage of healthcare workers which would ultimately affect the treatment and care of the infected patients.
It would be apt to note here that the first case of COVID-19 was detected in the State of Uttarakhand after three trainee IFS officers of Indira Gandhi National Forest Academy returned to Dehradun after attending a conference/training programme in Spain. However, they did not disclose their travel history to the local administration.
When the symptoms of COVID-19 developed in their bodies, they were rushed to the State Government Hospital and after proper examination, it was revealed that all of them are Corona positive. They were immediately quarantined. Two other persons came in the State from abroad and were detected COVID-19 affected. Total of 7 COVID-19 cases was detected in the State of Uttarakhand.
However, after the news got published in the media that some members of the Jamaat have returned to their respective cities from Nizamuddin Markaz, Delhi, a frantic search was made by the State Government and they were medically examined and the total number of Corona affected persons went up to 35. By the passage of time, 7 Corona affected patients got cured. However, 28 Corona affected persons are still undergoing treatment. Fortunately, no loss of life is reported so far in the State of Uttarakhand due to COVID 19 pandemic.
The Court issued the following directions to the respondents:
- The respondents and all-district magistrates shall ensure that PPEs are provided to the healthcare workers.
- The State Government shall ensure that all the Health Care Workers, i.e., doctors, nurses and other medical staff, who are unable to visit their respective residences, shall be provided nutritious food, items of daily need, clean apparels and accommodation close to their workplaces where they are attending and treating the Corona affected patients if such facilities are not already being provided to them.
- The District Magistrates of all 13 districts shall ensure that none of the medical officers, nurses and medical staff shall avoid the use of PPEs. The direction issued by the Government of India in its Circular dated 12th April 2020 shall be complied with strictly and any violation of said circular by any of the Medical Officers or medical staff shall be considered as an act of indiscipline.
- The respondents shall ensure the implementation of the Guidelines issued by the World Health Organization under the heading “Coronavirus disease (COVID 19) outbreak: rights, roles and responsibilities of “Health Care Workers’, including key considerations for occupational safety and health”.
- The respondents and all the District Magistrates shall identify the sensitive areas where there is the likelihood of any violent action being taken by the public against the frontline Corona warriors, including the police personnel and take appropriate preventive measures to ensure that no harm is caused to the frontline Corona warriors / public safety.
- The respondents and all the District Magistrates shall ensure the maintenance of law and order in their respective districts. They shall ensure the safety of Medical Officers, nurses and other medical staff, including drivers and attendants of the ambulances, by providing adequate police protection to them as and when they are asked to take into custody any suspected Corona affected person for treatment to the hospital or quarantine purposes.
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