Patna High Court raps Bihar government over widely differing COVID toll

One affidavit mentioned 6 deaths while another spoke of 789 cremations at just one ghat in Buxar

May 18, 2021 02:36 am | Updated 02:38 am IST - Patna

Bodies of COVID-19 victims wait for cremation at Bans Ghat electric crematorium, in Patna. File

Bodies of COVID-19 victims wait for cremation at Bans Ghat electric crematorium, in Patna. File

The Patna High Court on Monday expressed concern over inconsistency in the death toll presented by government officials in two separate affidavits. The court then told the government to file fresh affidavits with verified figures within two days.

While hearing a bunch of Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petitions over the pandemic and its management, a division bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice S. Kumar observed, “We’re aghast at the way in which the two separate affidavits with two different figures of deaths in Buxar district are being filed before the court. The court deserves the correct and verified figures from the government”. The court has been monitoring COVID-19 management in the State for last several days.

The two separate affidavits of deaths in Buxar district, where recently as many as 71 dead bodies were found floating in the Ganga , were filed by the State chief secretary and Patna divisional commissioner.

The chief secretary’s affidavit said only six deaths had taken place in Buxar district since March 1, 2021, while the Patna divisional commissioner’s affidavit mentioned that there were 789 cremations at just one cremation ground of Buxar district, the Muktidham Charitraban, between May 5 and May 14.

“Even the chief secretary’s affidavit does not say that all the six deaths have taken place due to COVID-19, neither the Commissioner’s affidavit mentioned that 789 deaths are non-COVID deaths. There is also no mention of age and religion of those who have died. People from other religion too must have died and last rites may also have been performed at burial grounds,” observed the court while, asking the State advocate general Lalit Kishore to verify the figures and data before filing to the court.

“All facts first must be verified from all sources before being placed to the court, else it will amount to filing of false or incomplete affidavit,” said the court. Mr Kishore, later, assured the court that he would return after getting the details.

The court also sought to know from the government about the age group of those who have died whether due to COVID-19 or otherwise.

“If the young people are dying, then it is serious,” observed the court while expressing concern over the Bihar government’s official website recording births and deaths not being updated regularly.

“Why the deaths, be it six or 789 were not updated on the official website,” asked the court.

The bench also sought to know whether the State has been provided with enough tankers for transportation of 400 metric tons of liquid oxygen which the government had earlier demanded.

The court said, “Let an affidavit of the principal secretary, health verify the facts before the court within two days and also the court shall be apprised of infrastructure for storage and transportation of oxygen up to the point of end user.”

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