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HC says Delhi beating Maharashtra, Kerala in Covid, asks why restrictions were eased

The division bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Subramonium Prasad said the infection has now “touched every household” in Delhi and asked the state government whether there was any strategy at all in place to control infections.

Written by Sofi Ahsan | New Delhi | Updated: November 12, 2020 10:34:40 am
delhi coronavirus latest updates, delhi covid cases, delhi covid high cases, delhi corona capital, delhi city newsCovid testing underway at Sadar Bazar Wednesday. (Express photo by Praveen Khanna)

THE DELHI High Court Wednesday rapped the Delhi government as it termed the national capital’s Covid-19 situation “critical” and “alarming”, and asked the state government to apprise it about steps taken in the last two weeks to control the rising number of cases. The state also faced the court’s ire for relaxing restrictions on public movement and gatherings.

The division bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Subramonium Prasad said the infection has now “touched every household” in Delhi and asked the state government whether there was any strategy at all in place to control infections. The court said Delhi was scaling heights that no other city has reached.

“Today, you, Delhi, a city-state, is beating the whole state of Maharashtra and the state of Kerala hands down in Covid-19 infections. The daily rates are mind boggling. We have crossed almost 8,000. The number of deaths are now in double figures and going up. What has the Delhi government done at all to contain the cases particularly when there are decisions taken by you to unlock in every which manner,” Justice Kohli observed.

Following the court observations, Delhi government issued a statement: “We will present a detailed report to the court on actions being taken to control the Covid situation. All the actions taken so far have been under the guidelines issued by Centre and after consultation with various experts. In future, too, Delhi government will not be found wanting in case we have to take action based on directions of the court or as suggested by experts.”

On Wednesday, Delhi reported 8593 cases, the highest single-day spike so far, taking the number of infections to 4,59,975. The death toll increased to 7228 with 85 fatalities in 24 hours.

The court also took note of government orders permitting 200 guests at marriage functions instead of the earlier limit of 100 and allowing public transport to be fully occupied instead of the previous arrangement of alternate seating. It also said tehbazari owners and shopkeepers have been allowed to run their places in full swing. While Delhi government counsel Satyakam sought time to respond to the questions and agreed that the situation was grave, the bench said it had expressed concern over the situation last week too during a hearing.

“We had expressed the concern not just as a court but as citizens of the state and that expression is being reiterated today because the numbers have shot up through the ceiling,” the bench observed. It asked why all the norms have been relaxed instead of being tightened despite the ongoing festive season.

“There is no control or there is lack of control on your part,” said the court. “The swarming streets of Delhi … show an alarming situation where all caution seems to have been thrown to the wind during this festive season, and the public is out in uncontrollable numbers, which itself would become a cause for further spread of infections,” it said.

The court was hearing a petition by advocate Rakesh Malhotra, who has tested positive for Covid-19 and was attending the hearing from a nursing home in Dwarka where he is on oxygen support. Malhotra told the court he was unable to get admission in any of the private hospitals and submitted he would be in difficulty in case his condition deteriorated.

Observing that almost everybody in the city did not know how to deal with the situation, the HC said people have children at home and senior citizens with comorbidities but all doors were being thrown open in the name of unlocking, even when other states were bringing back restrictions during festive time.

“Why has the Delhi government decided to throw to the wind all these facts that are right there below its nose and ignore them? Why is it that when the Delhi government knows that gatherings should not be permitted, instead of restricting them to below 100 or retaining them, they have increased it to 200,” said the court. It questioned the state about the monitoring of such gatherings on ground, adding those in such functions may turn out to be super-spreaders.

Observing that citizens were suffering and it cannot forget to put its ears to the ground, the bench said the government cannot remain oblivious and alarm bells should have rung within the government to deal with the situation hands on due to the mounting cases in the last two weeks. The court said it was one thing for the government to claim that in absence of a vaccine, masks should be “temporarily” treated as one, but another thing to say how it proposes to implement such a statement. The situation has well surpassed advisories, it added. “If the Delhi government is serious about implementing its policy/strategy for containing the infection, then this court would have thought that by now there would have been some sanctions through appropriate legislation for enforcing wearing of masks in public spaces,” the court said further.

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