Jammu and Kashmir High Court has appreciated the efforts of Governments of J&K and Ladakh on coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic and lauded the role of district administrations, police and Legal Services Authority in ensuring continuity of essential services to the people.
Hearing a plea via video conference, the Coram comprising Chief Justice Jammu and Kashmir High Court, Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Rajnesh Oswal sought a report from the government on availability of safety equipment to healthcare professionals and ensuring the provision of care to dependents/families of healthcare and government personnel or officials engaged in the Covid-19 management.
It also called for considering the possibility of running 24-hour canteens/kitchens in all hospitals/institutions to enable the provision of the necessities of the healthcare and other personnel engaged in addressing the Covid-19 issues.
The High Court directed Administrative Secretary Health and Medical Education to look into this matter and submit a report.
The Coram observed that health officials and other personnel engaged in the Covid-19 management requires them to be out of homes way beyond normal eight-hour duty routines and therefore it becomes necessary to create a network/body of persons who would attend to the needs of the family members/dependents of all personnel (including those in the healthcare services) attending to Covid-19 issues.
It directed the Administrative Secretary of Social Welfare to examine and make a decision on the creation of machinery for addressing the aspect. “The administration could look to the NGOs/citizen volunteers for mobilising a proper system for this and creation an e-request dedicated mechanism for interaction. A nodal officer would need to be identified for this purpose who would monitor the working of the system,” the Coram added.
With regard to the availability of safety equipment, the Coram directed the Department of Health and Medical Education to inform the court regarding the availability of personal protection equipment for the safety of all healthcare workers.
“The steps are taken to ensure availability of equipment as also the proposals for ensuring the same to all healthcare professionals in Jammu and Kashmir as well as Ladakh should be placed before us before the next date of hearing,” the Coram said.
On the issue of safety, care, health and violence against professionals and clinical establishments, the High Court observed that it is painful to note that such a critical matter is being randomly addressed and 19 legislations are in existence in separate States with reports on the matter showing hardly any prosecutions.
“To address the basic issues relating to the current pandemic, it has been necessary to take recourse to the Epidemic Diseases Act of 1897. This legislation has to be visited in the light to technology developments and the current experiences. Thus even the provisions of this enactment need a serious re-examination,” it said.
The High Court also called for preparing the public and dissemination of essential information for the possibility of partial or full removal of the lockdown restrictions after April 14, 2020.
“There are no confirmed reports about the progression of the infection or life of the virus. It is therefore imperative to prepare the public about the permissible conduct upon removal of the restrictions (partial or complete); progression of the COVID-19 virus infection and life of the virus; possibility of carriers existing and infecting despite the lockdown and all related information,” the Coram said.
It directed Administrative Secretary Health and Medical Education Department; Administrative Secretary Social Welfare Department; Director Information Department; Member Secretary JK State Legal Services Authority to immediately take appropriate action as may be required on the aforementioned aspect.
The action plan in this regard shall be placed before us by the Director Information before the next date of hearing, the Coram directed.
During the proceedings, the Coram called for urgent implementation of Jammu and Kashmir Suspension of Sentence Rules, 2020 and steps for grant of special parole to prisoners as envisaged therein on priority.
It called upon concerned Principal District and Sessions Judges to ensure that all visiting judges in the Jail and also the concerned courts take immediate action based on the recommendation of the High-Powered Committee (appointed in terms of the order dated 23rd March 2020 of the Supreme Court of India) with regard to prisoners.
Regarding the issue of the impact of pollen from poplar trees, the Coram said that it has been submitted that pollen may have the potential to hold the Covid-19 virus and result in aggravation of the spread of this infection as well.
“Let this aspect be examined by the Administrative Secretary Health and Medical Education, and, if the impact as suggested is correct, immediate remedial action be taken,” it added.
With regard to 400 stranded pilgrims at Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine, Katra, the court was informed that the local administration took a call and all these persons stand shifted to an Ashram at Bantalab at Jammu. The boarding and lodging of these pilgrims /persons is being taken care of by the district administration.
The High Court recorded deep appreciation for the tremendous efforts of the Indian Consulate in New York City and the Embassy of India at Washington DC and also the Ministry of External Affairs, New Delhi in prioritizing and addressing all concerns of Indian nationals abroad and who are in the United States of America.
The court also appreciated the initiative, drive and unstinted hard work of Sushma Chauhan, Deputy Commissioner (Jammu) and Dr Shahid Iqbal Chaudhary, Deputy Commissioner (Srinagar) for their efforts in the two main densely populated cities of Jammu and Kashmir for efficiently leading to the detection of the infected, identification of the sources of infection and ensuring continuity of all essential services in the districts.