The Delhi High Court on Tuesday rapped Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) for its “apathy” in dealing with the rising number of Covid-19 cases in the campus, and directed its Vice Chancellor and Registrar to ascertain the necessity and feasibility of creating a Covid care facility there. The court also asked the local SDM to file a status report, answering if such a facility can be created at JNU as per guidelines.
Justice Prathiba M Singh said the first letter with regard to the situation by teachers and students to the JNU administration was written on April 13, but it failed to evoke a response. “If this is true, this would constitute gross neglect by the JNU administration in a situation which is completely alarming,” said the bench.
The court also said there is no doubt the JNU administration ought to have reacted “with swiftness and alacrity” and the varsity is bound to take care of the health of students and teachers, and make available the facility to the extent possible within the campus, considering the shortage of beds outside.
“Judicial notice can be taken of the fact that various organisations and institutions have gone out of their way, during the current pandemic, to make various facilities available to their employees and other stakeholders, to safeguard their health during the current surge of the Covid-19 pandemic. The JNU ought not to be an exception in this regard,” said the court.
It passed the order in a petition filed by the JNU Teachers Association, seeking directions for setting up Covid care facilities in the university campus, a Covid response team and certain oxygen facilities. The court was told there were 74 cases as of April 18 in the campus, and the same had increased to 211 on May 7.
The JNUTA told the court it had written to the Registrar and Vice Chancellor in April, highlighting the alarming situation and sought various steps to control it, and later also contacted the SDM and other government authorities for setting up the isolation and quarantine facilities. However, the court was told no action has been taken despite faculty of Social Medicine and Community Health submitting a proposal in this regard. The School of Life Sciences has also devised a plan for producing oxygen within the campus, the petitioner further told the court.
The Delhi government told the court that as the entire campus is within the control of JNU administration, they are unable to do anything, but if permitted, they are willing to co-ordinate with the faculty and administration to set up a Covid care facility within the campus.