04 May 2021 

While the Indian government is struggling to cope with the second wave of COVID19 across the country, high courts across India and the Supreme Court have taken state governments as well as the central government to task, through suo moto proceedings or action on public interest litigation and petitions filed by hospitals. Here is what has been happening in court across India on the Covid pandemic. 

Delhi High Court In a stern message, the Delhi High Court on Tuesday told the union government that it intends to see the compliance of its order in connection with the oxygen supply to the national capital. The Centre’s failure to implement the order also irked the court and brought the government close to a contempt case.

about:blank A division bench of justice Vipin Sanghi and justice Rekha Palli asked the union government to explain why a contempt case should not be initiated against it. It also directed the Centre to show cause why no action should be taken against it for failure to comply with the Supreme Court and High Court orders to supply required oxygen to the Delhi government.

The court asked the Centre: “Are you living in an ivory tower? Where are you living?” The bench further added that because the Delhi government didn’t raise the demand, people should be allowed to die. “Is this what it’s come to? You want to quibble while people are losing lives?” On shortage of oxygen in Delhi, the High Court told the Centre, “you can put your head in sand like ostrich, we will not.” The top court’s 30th April order shows it directed the Centre to provide 700 MT of oxygen and not just 490 MT, said the High Court. It further emphasised there is already a top court order and now, it will also say the Centre will have to supply 700 MT oxygen daily to Delhi right away by whatever means. The court noted that it sees grim reality every day of people, who are not able to secure oxygen or ICU beds in hospitals, which have reduced beds due to shortage of oxygen. The high court also sought appearance of two Central government officers to be present before it on Wednesday to respond to the notice. It also rejected the Centre’s submission that Delhi was not entitled to 700 metric tonnes of medical oxygen against the backdrop of existing medical infrastructure. 

Karnataka High Court In Bengaluru, the bench of chief justice Abhay S Oka and justice Aravind Kumar of the Karnataka High Court came down heavily on the union government while hearing a bunch of petition on the Covid situation. This included a follow up of its 29th April order asking the central government to increase the cap on supply of Remdisvir and Oxygen. A LiveLaw report quotes the chief justice asking the attorney general, “What is your explanation the requirement of the state is 1467 MT and you have increased it only to 865. Mr Kumar are you not aware that people have died in the state due to non-availability of Oxygen”. The court also asked, “Is there any other city in the country which is getting 20,000 covid-19 cases every day. Mr Kumar we give you time till 2.30pm to take instructions on increase of cap for supply of Oxygen”.  While hearing a plea, the bench told the attorney general, “Let your officers know that there is an incident of people dying due to lack of oxygen.” It was reacting to over 24 deaths at a hospital at Chamrajnagar owing to the ack of oxygen.  

Kerala High Court The Kerala High Court asked the state government to file a statement listing out the legal basis of its decision to issue an order reducing the rates of RT-PCR testing. Hearing the plea of the private laboratories, Justice N Nagaresh asked the State on what basis it issued the order and orally expressed that the HC would interfere it was found that the order was not backed by law. While hearing another matter, the Kerala High Court has asked the state government on instituting suo motu proceedings to curb overcrowding at COVID vaccine centres in the state. “If uncontrolled crowding is permitted at vaccination centres, the situation will boomerang. Instead of being a prophylactic, vaccination drive will be a super spreader,” the HC says.  Bombay High Court Meanwhile, the Bombay High Court has decided to continue to hear all covid-19 related public interest litigations (PILs) during the summer vacation between 10th May and 6 June 2021. The division bench of CJ and Justice GS Kulkarni says the bench will take up Covid-19 related cases even during the vacation, while adjourning a clutch of PILs on the issue for Thursday. 

Rajasthan High Court The Rajasthan High Court today issued notice to the Central Government, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the State Government on a petition seeking various directions for managing the second wave of Covid, reports LiveLaw. It was responding to petitions about the acute shortage of beds, lack of information on their availability and shortage of oxygen  

Supreme Court of India Earlier this week, the Supreme Court directed the central and state governments to consider enforcing a ban on mass gatherings and super spreader events as well as consider imposing a lockdown. “We would seriously urge the central and state governments to consider imposing a ban on mass gatherings and super spreader events. They may also consider imposing a lockdown to curb the virus in the second wave in the interest of public welfare,” the Supreme Court said. While asking the union government to frame within two weeks a uniform national policy on hospital admissions, the apex court has said that no patient should be denied hospitalisation or essential drugs in any state and union territory (UT) for lack of local residential proof of that state or UT or even in the absence of identity proof.