HC Closes Issues On Inadequate Testing, Internet 


The Jammu and Kashmir High Court has closed issue regarding insufficient testing and availability of safety equipment to healthcare professionals, observing that the government was conscious of its responsibilities and has undertaken all requisite steps.

Hearing a batch of petitions on novel coronavirus through video conference, a division bench of Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Rajnesh Oswal also sought a monthly report of the steps taken as regards ensuring the provision of care to dependents, families of healthcare personnel, government employees engaged in COVID-19 management.

On April 16, advocate Ateeb Kanth had raised the issue regarding insufficient sampling and shortage of technicians in J&K following which the court had directed the government to file a response.

Sajad Amin Shah, Additional Secretary to Government, Health and Medical Education Department, filed a status report, informing court that there was no shortage of technicians for carrying out COVID-19 testing in Jammu and Kashmir and the guidelines issued by MOH&FW, Government of India and ICMR from time to time are being strictly followed.

“The capacity of testing stands increased from 100 tests to 700 tests per day and are expected to increase to 1000 per day,” he submitted in the report filed on April 22.

COVID19 testing facilities, he said, have been made available in five laboratories and the matter was being reviewed under the Chairmanship of the Financial Commissioner, Health and Medical Education Department.

He said purchase orders to set up rt-PCR labs in New Medical Colleges at Anantnag, Baramulla, Doda, Kathua and Rajouri has been also placed. “Existing labs, rt-PCR machines on loan have been ordered from the Universities of Jammu, Kashmir and SKAUST-Srinagar,” he said.

“In view of the above, the Government is conscious of all its responsibilities and has undertaken all requisite steps which are being regularly reviewed. Everything possible to improve the testing is being undertaken,” the court said, adding, “Our directions made in this issue in previous orders including the order dated 3rd April 2020 shall continue to be complied with. This issue is therefore closed.”

Violence against Healthcare Professionals, the court sought a status report regarding The Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020.

The direction followed submissions by Assistant Solicitor General Of India Vishal Sharma that the Ordinance has been promulgated on April 22.

“The same is not on the record before us. 11. Let the status report in this regard be brought before us on the next date of hearing,” the court said.

The court also directed Sharma to file before it the concerns and objections of the Ministry of Home Affairs to the Healthcare Service Personnel and Clinical Establishments (Prohibition of Violence and Damage to Property) Bill, 2019 (“Draft Bill”) which had been proposed by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

Regarding notices issued to the Indian Medical Association, Junior Resident Doctors Association GMC Jammu and Doctors Association of Kashmir through Dr Nisar-ul-Hassan, the court said no representation has been received from them.

Monika Kohli, Amicus Curiae, submitted that she would contact the representatives of these associations and ascertain their stand on the examination being conducted by the Court. She also filed a comparison of the legislations enacted by the various states but sought more time to examine the matter in more detail.

“We would request Ms. Kohli to also examine the definition of healthcare personnel and the healthcare institutions as defined in the various legislations,” the court said and posted the matter for further consideration on May 5.

Regarding the removal of the lockdown, the court said it has not received any report “on this important issue.”

“We had called upon the Secretary, Health and Medical Education; Social Welfare Department; Director, Information and Member Secretary, JKSLSA to take appropriate action. Director Information was directed to place an action plan before us. This has not been done,” the court said and ordered directions made by it be “positively complied with” before the next date of hearing.

The court closed its consideration regarding the internet. The direction followed perusal of status reports including one on April 15 filed by T. M. Shamshi, Assistant Solicitor General, stating that the internet facilities are fully functional in Ladakh.

Irshad Ahmad, Additional Secretary Home Department placed a copy of the 9 April order passed by the Supreme Court of India in Foundation for Media Professionals vs. Union Territory of J&K and others.

“We are informed that apart from this writ petition, two other writ petitions being Private Schools Association, J&K vs. Union Territory of J&K and Soayib Qureshi v. Union Territory of J&K are pending consideration before the Supreme Court,” the court said, adding, “In view of the matter pending before the Supreme Court of India, we close our consideration of this issue in this writ petition.”

As regards the issue of stranded tourists, Divisional Commissioner Jammu Sanjeev Verma in a report submitted that there are no stranded tourists in the districts, as per global news agency.

So far as migrants and contract labourers, the Deputy Commissioners said that he was personally attending to the requirement and needs of these labourers who are being provided all the necessary assistance and food. He also confirmed that there was no reported distress or nutritional crisis.

Apart from the district administration, he said, efforts of the regional and district red-cross societies and volunteers are being utilised for handling grievance and distress promptly and efficaciously.

Additionally, he said, that over the gradual opening of industrial and other establishments including brick kilns, that migrants and contract labourers have been gainfully engaged in productive activities.

However, the Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir had not filed a report on this issue and he been asked by the court to do it before the next date of hearing. “Civil Authorities of (J&) shall continue to ensure that there is no distress to any of these persons.”

Stranded Kashmiris In Jammu

Regarding an application filed by an advocate Saqib Amin Parray, seeking direction to the government for grant permission to and facilitation for return of Kashmiris stranded at Jammu, the court said no orders are warranted “in as much as no general or overarching orders for grant of permission to all persons desirous of going from Jammu to Srinagar can be granted. Each individual case has to be examined on its own merit.” (GNS)

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