HC issues directions in PILs seeking care, protection of Covid-warriors, dependents

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SRINAGAR: A Division bench of Jammu and Kashmir High Court comprising Chief Justice, Justice Geeta Mital and Justice Rajnesh Oswal has issued string of directions while hearing Public Interest Litigations (PILs) seeking provision of care to dependants (families) of healthcare personnel/government personnel/officials engaged in COVID-19 management.

The Division Bench took on record the status report dated 1st June 2020 filed by Amit Gupta, AAG on behalf of Social Welfare Department.  The Court appreciated the sensitive response of the Department of Social Welfare to the important matter of ensuring care to the dependents/families of healthcare personnel/government personnel/officials who are devoted to COVID-19 management issues.

The report, inter alia, informed “As is already apprised on 26.04.2020 about 5773 dependents/family members of COVID 19 warriors were contacted, out of which 127 reported grievances and redressals were carried out at the district level. Subsequently additional 8217 calls were made in different districts to dependents/family members, out of which 204 reported grievances of various categories such as need of medicine, ration, movement passes, personal protection kits (PPK), and transportation. The nodal officers at the district level in coordination with the line departments have been providing all kind of necessary help to redress the grievances made by the dependents/family member of COVID 19 warriors.”

The DB ordered that the status report on this issue be brought on record by both the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir as well as Ladakh before the next date of hearing.

Hearing the petition seeking to address the issues of Safety, Care, Health and Violence against Healthcare Professionals and Clinical Establishments-Need for a legislative framework, the DB noted that a Status report dated May 27, 2020 has been filed by the Financial Commissioner, Health and Medical Education Department, and the views of the Doctors Association of Kashmir filed through its counsel were taken on record.

The Court also noted that ‘Given the fact that the Government of India is vitally concerned with the issue under consideration, let all reports on this issue also be made available to Vishal Sharma, Additional Solicitor General of India.

With some other directions, the HC asked to list the petition for hearing on 10th June 2020 at 11.30 A.M.

In a PIL filed by Sumit Nayyar, Advocate regarding lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to doctors in Government Hospitals, the DB noted that ‘A status report has been filed by Atal Dulloo, Financial Commissioner, Health and Medical Education Department placing before this Court the steps taken by the Department for ensuring supply of sufficient quantities of personal protective equipment (PPEs) including goggles, face-shield, masks, gloves, coverall/gowns (with or without aprons), headcover and shoe cover. The report details the stock position even as on May 26, 2020.’

Observing that this application is premised on some newspaper reports regarding difficulties in distribution of the PPEs, the DB ordered that the Department shall ensure availability of the kits to all the healthcare personnel and disposed of the petition.

While hearing another PIL regarding the condition of quarantine centers, the Court directed to file the reply before the next date of hearing on the submission of Amit Gupta, AAG seeking further time.

The DB also issued directions with regard to the PILs filed (regarding the plight of cattle and stray animals) during the Covid-19 lockdown in both Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.

The Court noted that cognizance of this issue was taken by it on May 12, 2020, and the Jammu and Srinagar Municipal Corporations were directed to file their action taken reports with regard to measures taken to mitigate the difficulties being faced by stray cattle and animals.

“We had also made an observation with regard to ensuring maintenance of veterinary services for animals.  The respondents were directed to examine the need for ensuring the availability of these services during the lockdown and notifying the period of their availability in the Union Territories. The respondents were also directed to examine the need for permitting private veterinary clinics from continuing to operate during the lockdown and the schedule thereof” the Court stated.

Taking on record the reports filed with regard to the care of stray cattle and to deal with the problem of stray dogs in all districts filed by Municipal bodies of J&K and Ladakh territories, the Division Bench noted that all authorities are sensitive and cognizant of their responsibilities and extensive measures are being undertaken to ensure the welfare of stray cattle and animals.

The DB maintained that “In case the applicant or any other parties in these proceedings deem additional steps being required to be taken, liberty is given to them to inform the authorities concerned or to move this court for appropriate directions.”

It further observed that “One direction, however, is necessary. The concerned authorities do not appear to have addressed the issue of scheduling availability of veterinary facilities (including those in the private field) in the Union Territories. This aspect may also be examined and the steps taken in this regard be placed on record within one week from today”.

In a petition regarding wastage of food grains in District Doda, the Court directed the two officials to remit the recovery amount into the Government Treasury within two days as per Food Manual of 2016 failing which the amount shall be recovered from their salary/pensionary benefits.

The HC directed that the respondents shall ensure that action is taken in accordance with law and ‘An action taken report shall be filed within two days from today and the respondents shall place their compliance report before us before the next date of hearing.’

Hearing a PIL regarding Labourers without food, the DB, on the submission for seeking time for filing a report,  by Amit Gupta, AAG ordered that the same be filed before the next date of hearing.

Hearing a PIL filed by Naveed Bukhtiyar from his residence Garkote, Uri, the Court noted that “The applicant has complained that basic needs of people who are living in far flung areas as Gurez, Tangdhar, Machail, Uri and are not only economically weak but are going through miserable time are not being met. It is stated that these people are in desperate need of basis requirements of survival.

This is very critical issue and the official respondents are bound to ensure that the essentials are made available to every person living in the Union Territory.”

With these observations, the DB directed that “Let a copy of this application be served upon Mr. B. A. Dar, Sr. AAG by e-mail who shall file response thereto before the next date of hearing.’

The Court further ordered that the “The matters be examined by the Department of Social Welfare and appropriate action be taken to assist the residents of the Union Territory in Kashmir living in far flung areas and action taken report be filed before us before the next date.”

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