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Thursday, May 13, 2021

Situation grave, Punjab and Haryana HC revives Covid-19 plea

After perusing the status reports, the bench said the situation was indeed grave, and allowed Union of India through its Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, to be impleaded as respondent in the matter.

Written by Jagpreet Singh Sandhu | Chandigarh |
Updated: May 1, 2021 7:04:11 am
A family waits for the cremation of a Covid-19 victim at Ramgarhia crematorium in Ludhiana. (Express Photo: Gurmeet Singh)

Saying that the situation is “indeed grave”, Punjab and Haryana High Court bench of Justices Rajan Gupta and Karamjit Singh, on Friday, allowed for reviving the petition on the Covid-19 surge in the States of Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh on an application by the amicus curiae. It also proposed that patients be segregated into three categories such as critical, mild to moderate, and mild, and a treatment plan be drawn up accordingly.

The Amicus Curiae, Senior Advocate Rupinder Khosla, contended that “a grave situation has arisen in all the three States in view of non-availability of essential drugs such as Remdesivir and Tocilizumab. Oxygen, ICU beds, ventilators and oxygen concentrators are in short supply due to which a number of deaths are being reported.”

Saying that there was a general impression among the people that no help is forthcoming from any quarter, Khosla vehemently contended that the petition be revived. He also sought for impleading the Union government as respondent in the matter by arguing that PGI and Government Hospital, Sector-16, Chandigarh, have exhausted their capacity of treating critical patients. The Amicus Curiae also placed on record short affidavits by Director, Health Services, UT, and Director, Health and Family Welfare, Punjab. Khosla said the existing infrastructure was grossly inadequate to fight the pandemic, and the court must intervene before the situation spirals out of control.

After perusing the status reports, the bench said the situation was indeed grave, and allowed Union of India through its Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, to be impleaded as respondent in the matter.

On a submission by Satya Pal Jain, Additional Solicitor General of India, the HC bench also impleaded Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, New Delhi, as a respondent.

During the proceedings on Friday, the Chief Secretary, Haryana joined the court through video conferencing and apprised them that “there has been a sudden dearth of oxygen as some plants in Roorkee, Rewari and Baddi (Barotiwala) have collapsed. As a result, oxygen has been sought from plants in Rourkela and Angul in Odisha by road, rail and other means. Even Indian Air Force has flown a few sorties to fetch oxygen from these far-flung places,’’ he said.

The State of Punjab submitted that “capacity of beds has been enhanced… All efforts are being made to supply oxygen and essential drugs in those parts of the State where the Covid surge is more than the other parts.’’

For Chandigarh, Senior Standing Counsel Pankaj Jain submitted that a policy decision has been taken to supply essential drugs such as Remdesivir and Tocilizumab directly to the Government and private hospitals and not through private distributors/ chemists.

On behalf of the Union government, Satya Pal Jain submitted that a Virtual Central Control Room has been set up by the GOI and the three States can get in touch with the control room in case of any problem.

While adjourning the matter for May 4, the bench added, “We expect that all the three States shall file another status reports on or before the next date of hearing. It shall also be ensured that the order dated April 23, 2021 whereby it was directed that nodal agencies be created in every district, is complied with in letter and spirit. In case of failure to do so, this court will examine whether there is any wilful disobedience of the orders passed by this court by any district in the States of Punjab and Haryana.”

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