Delhi HC dismisses PIL against earmarking beds in hotels attached to hospitals for govt officials
Court refused to accept the submission of the petitioner's counsel that resources of the state remained unutilised due to the exclusive reservation of facilities for COVID treatment of govt officials
NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court Thursday dismissed a plea challenging AAP government's notifications reserving rooms in four hotels linked to two hospitals for treatment of officials of various public authorities and their families.
A bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Jasmeet Singh said it does not find merit in the petitioner's submission that the government orders were not passed by competent authorities.
The court refused to accept the submission of the petitioner's counsel that resources of the state remained unutilised due to the exclusive reservation of facilities for COVID-19 treatment of government officials and their families.
It said the submission of petitioner's counsel does not take into account the ground reality of the second wave of the pandemic.
"Accordingly, the petition is dismissed," the bench said.
The court passed the order on a plea by Delhi-based doctor Kaushal Kant Mishra challenging the Delhi government's notifications reserving rooms in four hotels linked with two hospitals for COVID-19 treatment of officials of various public authorities and their families.
According to the Delhi government's April 27 notification 70 rooms at Hotel Ginger at Vivek Vihar; 50 rooms at Hotel Park Plaza in Shahdara, and 50 rooms at Hotel Leela Ambience at CBD Ground in Karkardooma, linked to Rajiv Gandhi Super Speciality Hospital; and all the rooms in Hotel Golden Tulip at Hari Nagar, linked to Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital (DDU), are reserved for the treatment of officers/officials of Delhi government, autonomous bodies, corporations, local bodies and their families.
Mishra had also challenged various other notifications of Delhi government, which was represented through advocate Satyakam.
The bench, while dictating some portion of the order on Wednesday, had said it was not living in ivory towers and had seen the condition of the national capital during the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic.
"There was such a shortage of facilities including oxygen, medicines, hospital beds, oxygenated beds, ICUs, doctors and paramedical staff that there was no question of any facilities remaining unutilised," it has said.
The court said when there was a massive dearth of medical infrastructure during the second wave of the pandemic, government officials were risking their lives on the streets to manage the situation.
It said the state is obliged to provide medical facilities to all the citizens including those grinding wheels of the administration and when the pandemic was at its height, there was a greater need of governance since the fire of the pandemic was raging at its peak.
The bench said during the lockdown, while the common citizenry were in their homes, it was the government officers who were out on the streets to manage the situation and if such officers/ officials were to fall sick and were not to receive treatment of COVID-19, not only they but the entire citizenry of Delhi would have suffered.
"The wheels of administration in the NCT of Delhi would have come to a grinding halt without this much assurance to the officials that they will receive treatment otherwise they would not have been able to discharge their duties without fear. They would not have been able to give attention and focus with which they were expected to discharge their duties," the bench said.
"We are not living in ivory towers. We were seeing what was happening in the city during the second wave on a daily basis. Thousands of people were looking at the state for some relief," the bench said.
The bench added, "In our view such officers clearly constitute a different class on account of their duties which they were required to perform during the peak of the pandemic.
They were required to come to duties by stepping out of the comfort of homes and they had no option to remain inside."
Advocate Rohan Thawani, representing Mishra, argued that creating such exclusive facilities for officers would violate fundamental rights including right to life and liberty of other citizens of Delhi who were seeking COVID-19 treatment but would be deprived of getting it as limited resources will be diverted for treating the officials.
The court said the submission of the counsel that the resources of the state remained unutilised due to the exclusive reservation given to the officials has no factual basis.
The plea has contended that creating a classification in favour of a certain category of persons was "arbitrary" and "unimaginable" when the common man was running from pillar to post in search of oxygen beds.
"It violates the right to health by diverting crucial health resources of the community away from the common citizens and in favour of already privileged government officers," the petition has said.
Apart from setting aside the April 27 notification, Mishra had also sought quashing of three Delhi government orders of last year as per which initially two dedicated hospitals and one testing laboratory were earmarked for the treatment of such officials/their families and later, the four hospitals were linked to the two government hospitals.