How Delhi judges judges helped save lives during corona

A view of the Delhi High Court. File

A view of the Delhi High Court. File

As we close another challenging year with a new variant of the Coronavirus rearing its head, it is time to express gratitude to some of our distinguished judges of the Delhi High Court whose timely intervention gave a push to the collective efforts to tide over the pandemic crisis during the year.

From lengthy court proceedings over weekends to urgent late-night hearings, the judges went beyond the call of duty to hear out the helpless public who turned to the judiciary when everything else failed.

When active cases of Covid-19 crossed 50,000 in Delhi in mid-April, the High Court revived a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) on COVID-19 testing and infrastructure.

During the hearing, a bench of Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Rekha Palli warned against the imminent collapse of the healthcare infrastructure and ordered the Centre and Delhi government to give details of the number of hospital beds with Oxygen support.

Streamlining supply

As the situation turned worse with the city hospitals running out of Oxygen supply for treating COVID-19 patients, the bench held an urgent hearing on April 21 and asked the Centre to protect the right to life of every seriously ill citizen requiring medical oxygen. The Centre was directed to make adequate arrangements and divert Oxygen supply from steel and petroleum industries to hospitals to tide over the emergency.

"The shortage is now...At this point of time, the highest priority has to be saving lives,” the bench had noted. The next day, the bench directed the Centre to create a special corridor on priority for safe and swift passage of Oxygen tankers from neighbouring Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.

The bench warned it will not hesitate to "hang" anyone found obstructing the pickup of Oxygen supplies.

Ramping up testing

On April 26, a bench of Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice Jasmeet Singh requested the Delhi government to ramp up testing centres as the number of COVID-19 cases spiked.

The directive came after several lawyers complained about the difficulty in getting tested as labs and staff had fallen woefully short for sample collection and examination.

Availability of drugs

On April 27, while hearing a plea by a lawyer, who was then suffering from COVID-19 and was able to get only three out of the six required doses of Remdesivir, Justice Prathiba M Singh directed the Delhi government to ensure the availability of the remaining three vials by the same night. She questioned the government about the scarcity of Remdesivir drug in Delhi, when several Indian companies were manufacturing and exporting the medicine.

The High Court also directed the Delhi government to secure the release of Remdesivir once the police seized it from hoarders and black-marketers.

Crackdown on black-marketing

The same day, the bench of Justice Sanghi and Justice Palli also cautioned the Delhi government to put its "house in order" as it had failed to check black marketing of Oxygen cylinders resulting in unwarranted chaos.

"We can’t let people die," the bench remarked, prompting a crackdown on hoarders.

It also appealed to citizens not to stock oxygen cylinders and medicines at home and create an artificial scarcity. There were strict orders to make them available for people in genuine need.

On ICU beds

It was a heartbreaking moment when an advocate sought the help of the bench of Justice Sanghi and Justice Palli in getting an ICU bed for his relative, who was a COVID patient with low vitals, and in the middle of the hearing, the news reached about the patient's death.

“I have failed, my brother-in-law has expired, so no more efforts are needed,” the advocate said.

An anguished bench answered, "No, the state has failed. We all have failed”.

Contempt warning

On May 1, the Bench warned the Centre of initiating contempt proceedings against its officials if they failed to procure Delhi's daily allocation of 490 metric tonnes (MT) of oxygen.

The Bench took serious note of the interruption in Oxygen supply for 90 minutes due to the delay in supply to Batra Hospital that led to the loss of eight lives, including a doctor of the same hospital.

When the second wave of the pandemic was tapering, the High Court directed the Centre to bridge the demand-supply gap of Amphotericin B, used for treating black fungus that was then affecting the COVID-19 recovered patients.

Noting that the matter was about "time and human life", the Bench of Justice Sanghi and Justice Singh directed the Centre to ramp up the production or import Amphotericin.

Throughout the year, the High Court has been proactively hearing PILs related to COVID-19 and fast-tracking solutions. Even now, as we slide into the new year, it has posted a hearing on January 6 to discuss the need and efficacy of a booster dose for those who are fully vaccinated.

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Printable version | May 17, 2022 7:57:09 pm |