The High Court of J&K on Friday passed a slew of directions regarding the measures to be taken by the UT Government in the battle against the COVID-19 disease and other ancillary matters. While hearing the Public Interest Litigations PIL No. 4/2020 and PIL No. 5/2020 through video conferencing, the Division Bench of Hon’ble Chief Justice Ms Justice Geeta Mittal and Hon’ble Mr Rajesh Oswal directed that the issue of insufficient testing be urgently examined by the Chief Secretary, UT of J&K as well as Secretary, Health and Medical Education.
It was mentioned by Advocate Ateeb Khateeb Kanth one of the Advocates who have filed the PIL No. 4/2020 that as per the report filed by the Health Department, only 157 technicians are available for which reason insufficient sampling is being undertaken and that the Government has admitted that 50,000 travellers have travelled into J&K but only 4000 people have been tested for COVID-19.
Regarding the prisoners of J&K lodged in jails of J&K and other parts of India, the High Court directed the Government to file further report within ten days mentioning the steps taken after the filing of report of DG Prisons dated 8th of April, 2020.
Regarding the need for a legislative framework addressing issues of safety, care, health and violence against Healthcare Professionals and Clinical Establishments, Ms Monica Kohli Amicus Curie specifically brought to the notice of the Court the incident of Budgam where doctors were held hostage by the public and incidents where doctors have been asked to vacate the hotel accommodation which they were occupying as well as reports of attack on ambulances.
The Court was informed that Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India had drafted a bill called Health Care Service Personnel and Clinical Establishments (Prohibition of Violence and Damage to Property) Bill 2019 and sent it to Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. In order to study the objections of the Ministry of Home Affairs to the Bill, the High Court directed Mr Vishal Sharma ASGI to place the same before the Court by next date of hearing and also issued notice to other stakeholders like Indian Medical Association, Junior Resident Doctors Jammu and Doctors Association Kashmir and has asked them to submit their comments.
Regarding lack of efficient internet facility in the UTs of J&K and Ladakh, the Court directed the Secretary, Home Department of UTs of J&K and Ladakh to file the report by next date of hearing.
Regarding the impending Darbar Move, various departments including the High Court through its Registrar General have filed their reports as per the directions of the Court dated 10th of April, 2020. As per the reports, extracts of which have been reproduced in the order of the Court itself, expenditure running into several hundred crores of rupees is incurred on each bi-annual Darbar Move. The Court directed Ms Monica Kohli Amicus Curie to examine the reports by next date of hearing which in this particular matter has been fixed on 22-04-2020.
Regarding the welfare of stranded migrant/contract labour, visitors, the Court directed the Divisional Commissioners of Jammu and Srinagar to submit reports with regard to the conditions of the above mentioned categories of persons and the measures which are being undertaken for ensuring needs of these persons. The Court also directed the Member Secretary, JKSLSA to collaborate with the concerned authorities to supplement the steps being undertaken with respect to these people. The Court also directed Commissioners of Jammu and Srinagar Municipal Corporations to draw up a comprehensive plan to combat vector borne diseases in anticipation of the rising temperatures and the subsequent monsoon and also regarding the disposal of garbage and submit the plan to the Court by next date of hearing.
It is pertinent to mention here that the High Court has been monitoring the situation which has arisen out of the outbreak of Noval Corona Virus. The High Court has been hearing the PILs through video conferencing and has passed a number of directions in the past hearings which have had very positive effect on the working of the Government machinery. The general public has hailed the timely intervention of the High Court and the directions passed by it. Except for the issue pertaining to Darbar Move, the Court has listed the cases again on 27th of April, 2020.