Division Bench of High Court of Jammu and Kashmir comprising Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Rajnesh Oswal, while hearing a Public Interest Litigation pertaining to spread of Novel Corona Virus (COVID-19) has issued series of directions to Government and its departments. The entire proceedings in the matter were conducted through video conferencing and video calls.
Hearing the matter, the Division Bench directed Department of Health and Medical Education to make available adequate equipment of every kind for the use of health care personnel and all other personnel involved in any aspect of COVID-19 issue.
Court also directed the Department to file a report regarding procurement of more equipment as also creation of isolation wards, sample collection, processing and screening areas as per established protocols keeping in view anticipated future needs. Secretary, Health and Medical Education was directed to put out a protocol, so that pregnant women, neonates (new born) and infants are informed as to how they have to proceed for seeking medical assistance and vaccination etc. in the present times.
On being apprised by one of the appearing Advocates that there is a deficiency in the availability of test kits and ventilators in Srinagar as well as the information that an offer of supply of six ventilators made by a NGO to GMC, Srinagar was refused by the authorities, Division Bench directed Secretary, Health and Medical Education Department to file a report in the matter and to ascertain the circumstances in which the offer of the NGO was refused.
A report pertaining to release of prisoners in wake of outbreak of Corona Virus pandemic was also perused by the Court. Director General Prisons, through his report, apprised the Division Bench that as on 7th April 2020, pursuant to deliberations held by High Powered Committee, 22 PSA detenues, 32 Under trials, 9 Under trail prisoners falling under section 107,109,151 CrPC have been released and sanction for parole has been granted to 19 prisoners and two prisoners have already been released and all the steps for ensuring the health of the detenues whether lodged in the UT of Jammu and Kashmir or outside the UT and their protection from COVID-19 infection are being taken.
On the issue of the impact of pollen from poplar trees and fluff generated from these trees effecting respiratory disease or causing the spread of COVID-19 infection, Division Bench after perusing certain media reports brought to its notice observed that there is the necessity of revisiting the desirability of felling of female poplar tress before these trees are cut.
Division Bench directed Chief Secretary of UT of J&K to constitute a Committee within 4 days to examine all aspects relating to the matter including the impact of the pollen and fluff from the poplar tress, the desirability of feeling poplar trees and related issues. Court further directed that the committee thus constituted shall forward its report to Department of Health & Medical Education as well as to Forest Department, which shall consider the report and place their view before Chief Secretary and thereafter Chief Secretary shall file his final recommendations in the court.
Division Bench further directed that any prior order of the court directing feeling of poplar tress is kept under abeyance till the further orders of the Division Bench.
On the issue of impending darbar move and to take considered opinion as to whether any direction with respect to its postponement till COVID-19 infection is brought under full control can be passed or not, Division Bench directed Secretary GAD, Secretary Finance Department, DGP, Secretary Estate Department, Secretary Transport Department, IGP (Traffic), ADG (Security), and Registrar General High Court of J&K to file separate reports with respect to implications of Darbar Move in present time, its impact on the necessary resources at this stage, on the personnel involved, financial implications, arrangements (Transport, accommodation, security etc.) involved and other matters.
To ensure e-Connectivity of Courts and to make available all the e-facilities to all the courts of UTs of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh, BSNL and NIC were directed by the Division Bench to work in tandem and to file a joint action taken report in the court. Registrar IT was also directed to take up the matter of removal of upper cap of number of SMS allowed per user per month with Committee of Supreme Court of India and NIC so that court and case related information as also the information which is of grave public importance as is being made available by various Government departments is regularly circulated amongst the lawyers and litigants without any interruption.
Division Bench, on being apprised that though large amount of information including important telephone numbers for fighting against COVID-19 pandemic is available with the government and its departments but the information and telephone numbers are not in public domain, directed Secretary, Social Welfare Department and Director Information to give adequate publicity to the telephone numbers and to put the information in public domain by using the messaging facilities on mobile numbers etc.