Supreme Court Issues Notice on Non-Testing of COVID-19 Patients and Mishandling of Corpses

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The Supreme Court of India issued notices in a suo moto case to the Centre and five State Governments. This ordered State Governments to increase the number of COVID tests taken. It also asked states to ensure the respectful disposal of dead bodies of COVID-19 victims. This notice was issued on June 12, 2020.

Brief Facts of the Case

The Supreme Court directed the Governments to increase the number of COVID-19 tests they carried out. Further, it stated that the non-testing of patients is not a solution. Rather, increase in testing facilities is the duty of the State. People have the right to know about their health status and gain access to treatment for COVID-19.

The Supreme Court decided to hear the matter. This was after a 60-year-old COVID-19 patient from Delhi died as he couldn’t get a bed in any hospital. 

Court’s Observation

The bench consisted of Justices Ashok Bhushan, Sanjay Kishan Kaul, and MR Shah. It observed a significant decrease in COVID-19 testing in the capital. This was when COVID-19 cases were sharply rising every day. Cases were increasing at a rate of 10,000 per day. It questioned how tests could go down in such a scenario.

Justice Ashok Bhushan:

“We are more concerned with living than dead. Look at the condition of hospitals. Bodies are there in the wards. Mumbai is testing 16,000 to 17,000, whereas in Delhi it is falling below 7,000. Media has highlighted this issue.” 

Since family members are reluctant to claim bodies, bodies are strangely disappearing from morgues. Hence, the family’s consent plays no role before the disposal of these bodies.

Justice Bhushan observed that in some states, bodies were found in garbage bins. “They are being treated worse than animals!” – Justice Bhushan further observed.

Court’s Order

The Supreme Court issued a notice to the Central Government along with other State Governments. This included NCT Delhi, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Gujarat, and Tamil Nadu. It ordered the Chief Secretaries of States to take appropriate notice of the status of patients’ management in the Government hospital in their respective States and take remedial action.

Additionally, it asked them to bring status reports with regard to Government hospitals, patient care and the details of the staff, infrastructure, etc. This was for the Court to issue appropriate directions as found necessary on the next date of hearing.


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