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Monday, November 23, 2020

HC raps Delhi govt over Covid surge: Woke up from slumber after order

The city recorded 7,546 new Covid cases on Thursday, with a positivity rate of 12%. The death toll touched 8,041 on Thursday, with 98 deaths being reported.

Written by Sofi Ahsan | New Delhi | November 20, 2020 2:21:31 am
Questioning the government for not acting before the November 11 court order, the bench said Wednesday’s order on marriages could have been passed earlier by DDMA and the state did not need to look towards Centre or L-G for exercise of power.

The Delhi High Court Thursday rapped the Delhi government over its delay in taking additional measures to control the rising number of Covid cases in the capital, saying it was shaken “out of its slumber” only due to an order passed last week.

The city recorded 7,546 new Covid cases on Thursday, with a positivity rate of 12%. The death toll touched 8,041 on Thursday, with 98 deaths being reported.

Taking note of the government’s decision to cap guests at weddings to 50 from 200, the division bench of Justice Hima Kohli and Subramonium Prasad said, “You (Delhi government) saw which way the wind was blowing from last two weeks. Now you turned turtle because the court asked you questions. We are not here to take any credit from anybody…but why is it you did not wake up to this alarming situation on your own? The bells should have rung loud and clear… the moment you saw figures spiraling and Delhi reeling.”

The court also told the government it will not be a silent observer to the situation, but it is also not there to shake the state out of its slumber.

When the government submitted that it cannot shut the city, the court said, “Who has told you we are telling you to shut the city? We are asking that when you find a particular situation escalating in a particular district, why are you not taking a cue and following a lead from any other city in the country to see what it did to set things right? You are crossing a city like New York and Sao Paolo in numbers… topping the list… We are not saying you have not taken action, we are saying you have not done enough.”

Questioning the government for not acting before the November 11 court order, the bench said Wednesday’s order on marriages could have been passed earlier by DDMA and the state did not need to look towards Centre or L-G for exercise of power.

“Do you know the number of lives we have lost in 18 days? How do you explain loss of lives to somebody who has lost their near and dear ones?” it said.

The court also said the government cannot say the Centre has not rendered it any help as it received the same after it approached the latter post the November 11 order. It added the state should have approached the Centre earlier as it was aware the situation was worsening every day, and that it was not time to find fault with anyone.

Observing that the Centre only issues advisories and does not handhold a state, the bench said: “You have to see your own ground reality and decide…”

The government told the court it has approached the Centre for permission to close certain markets and other places on a case-to-case basis and that sanctions are awaited.

The court also asked the state why it was not reconsidering the Rs 500 fine when it was not acting as a deterrent: “We are not saying you alone are responsible, citizens are also responsible and are supposed to take precautions. If they don’t, you are supposed to enforce it in such a way that they don’t carry infection to others. Those who are not stepping out of their homes out of sheer fear of infections and co-morbidities… the infection is travelling into their homes thanks to carelessness of others. You have the law, we are looking at enforcement,” it said.

Dismissing an argument that the government did not anticipate spike in cases, the court said, “You know Delhi with its pollution gets worse at this time of year on an annual basis… Cold wave and weather combination is a deadly cocktail of death for those who are living in Delhi… How is it that you did not anticipate it?”

It directed the government to implement its plan to increase 660 ICU beds in hospitals by next week and to file a status report indicating steps taken to ensure there are adequate arrangements made at all crematoriums and burial places to carry out last rites of those who died of the virus.

The court further said that in view of a manpower crunch, RWAs and market associations could help in enforcing social distancing norms and wearing masks at public places.

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