Hearing a public interest litigation pertaining to the Covid-19 situation in Surat and the difficulties being faced on the ground, the Gujarat High Court on August 17 remarked that the picture emerging in the state was “quite frightening” and that the state machinery needed to gear up to meet the worst of the situation.
In the order made public Monday, the division bench of Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Justice J B Pardiwala noted that while the report on the Covid-19 situation in Surat by the state appeared to reflect an “encouraging” trend, “the picture that emerges as regards the conditions prevailing as on date in Gujarat is quite frightening”.
“Although all the necessary steps are being taken to combat the situation of Covid-19 pandemic, yet the machinery needs to gear up and the state should be prepared to meet with the worst of the situation,” the court said.
The court added that apart from being apprised on the situation in Surat, it would like to be informed about “details and aspects regarding the conditions prevailing in all the civil hospitals across the state of Gujarat, more particularly, Vadodara, Rajkot, Bhavnagar and Gandhinagar.”
The court made it clear that henceforth, it expected the state to file status reports on the Covid-19 situation in the form of an affidavit that is under oath, and duly affirmed by the Principal Secretary, Health & Family Welfare Department.
The last report submitted on August 17 was signed by the government pleader Manisha Shah and additional director of medical education in health department, Dr Raghavendra Dixit. Earlier too, status reports and notes on behalf of the health department have been submitted not under oath and have been signed by government pleader Shah.
The first reply filed in March by the health department after the suo motu PIL was registered was the only one in the form of an affidavit, filed on behalf of the joint secretary in health department, I M Kureshi. To ensure this, the division bench directed Chief Secretary Anil Mukim to constitute a team of “five high ranking IAS Officers, not below the rank of Joint/Additional Secretary, at the earliest”. The court said the committee members “shall immediately take a tour across the state of Gujarat and visit all the civil/government hospitals to take stock of things…”