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Tuesday, May 18, 2021

‘Health emergency’: Gujarat HC initiates PIL over covid situation

The Chief Justice noted that the attached news reports were only “just a few depicting the picture and a bare perusal of the same would indicate that the State is heading towards a health emergency of sorts.”

By: Express News Service | Ahmedabad |
Updated: April 12, 2021 7:42:45 am
Gujarat HC takes suo motu cognisance of Covid situation The high court's order came on a day when 5,469 fresh Covid-19 cases and 54 fatalities were reported across the state taking the total case count to 3,46,7499 and toll to 4,813. (Express Photo by Bhupendra Rana)

Gujarat High Court Chief Justice Vikram Nath on Sunday took suo motu cognizance and initiated public interest litigation (PIL) while observing that media reports on the pandemic indicated that the “state is heading towards a health emergency of sorts” and that there was an “uncontrolled upsurge and serious management issues in Covid-19 control”.

In the order, the court also observed that newspapers and TV channels were flooded with “harrowing tales, unfortunate and unimaginable difficulties, unmanageable conditions of the infrastructure, the shortfall and the deficit of not only testing, availability of beds, ICU, but also supply of oxygen and the basic medicines like Remdesivir”.

A priority hearing with the senior government counsels, Advocate General Kamal Trivedi and government pleader Manisha Shah, has been scheduled for Monday at 11 am.

The high court’s order came on a day when 5,469 fresh Covid-19 cases and 54 fatalities were reported across Gujarat which took the total case count to 3,46,749 and toll to 4,813.

On April 6, a division bench headed by Chief Justice Nath had specifically summoned government counsels Trivedi and Shah in light of the steep increase in Covid-19 cases in Gujarat each day, and had suggested that a lockdown for a few days may help the state in controlling the cases. The bench had also stressed on cracking the whip on social gatherings.

The bench had “requested the state to take appropriate measures in order to check and control the rise in Covid-19 cases and its management”.

In the Sunday’s order, Chief Justice Nath noted: “The said dialogue was widely reported in the media i.e. electronic, digital and print. It has been five days since. The newspapers, news channels are flooded with the harrowing tales, unfortunate and unimaginable difficulties, unmanageable conditions of the infrastructure, the shortfall and the deficit of not only testing, availability of beds, ICU, but also supply of Oxygen and the basic medicines like Remdesivir (sic), etc.”

“Had it been stray news here and there, I could have ignored it but the volume of report in the leading newspapers having nation-wide circulation cannot be ignored. It is the time that the court must intervene. A list of the articles along with xerox (photocopies) copies published in the past three days is a part of this order as Annexure-A. The Indian Express and the Times of India reports have been attached considering my language barrier,” the order notes.

The Chief Justice also noted that the attached news reports were only “just a few depicting the picture and a bare perusal of the same would indicate that the state is heading towards a health emergency of sorts”.

Parties impleaded to the fresh PIL include central and state government functionaries. Those directed to be added as parties are the State of Gujarat through its Chief Secretary Anil Mukim, Principal Secretary (Health) Jayanti Ravi, Union of India through Secretary of Department of Home, Government of India, Ajay Bhalla, and Secretary of Department of Health, Government of India, Rajesh Bhushan.

A bench of Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Justice Bhagav Karia has been formed to hear the matter on Monday where the court has sought the presence of the government counsels Trivedi and Shah along with Union of India representative Additional Solicitor General of India Devang Vyas.

“The proceedings of the Chief Justice Court are live streamed. We would request the learned Advocate General and learned Government Pleader to inform the top bureaucrats of the state to watch the proceedings subject to their convenience, especially those impleaded in this petition,” the order stated.

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