COVID-19 patients treated worse than animals, says SC while rapping Delhi, Maha, TN, Bengal
A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, S K Kaul and M R Shah sought responses from the states and asked them to explain the lapses in treating patients and offering a dignified departure to the dead
NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday reprimanded Delhi, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal for their handling of the COVID-19 crisis. It termed the the handling of COVID-19 patients in Delhi 'horrendous', adding that they are being treated "worse than animals" in some states.
A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, S K Kaul and M R Shah sought responses from the states and asked them to explain the lapses in treating patients and offering a dignified departure to the dead.
The court was hearing a suo motu case after going through a letter by former law minister Ashwani Kumar in which he highlighted how bodies of COVID-19 victims are piling up in Delhi and expressed anguish over the state of affairs in some states and said, “There are states where bodies were found in garbage bins. They are being treated worse than animals.”
Asking the Centre and states to file their responses, it posted the matter for further hearing on June 17.
Chief secretaries of Delhi, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal are required to file status reports on handling of the pandemic.
The top court also issued a separate notice to LNJP hospital in the national capital seeking its response.
The bench also expressed concern over the lowering of testing by some states and said, “What is happening? Mumbai, Chennai are increasing testing but your (Delhi) testing has gone down from 7,000 to 5,000. This is a horrendous situation. Look at the treatment of patients. Patients are crying and no one is looking after them.”
“Whoever requests for tests, the request can't be denied on technical grounds. The government may consider simplifying the procedure so that more and more tests are done. Apart from Delhi, there is a grim situation in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal,” the bench observed and said COVID-19 cases were increasing every day in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Ahmedabad and had reached 10,000 a day.
“How can tests go down? Non-testing is not the solution. Increasing the number of tests is the duty of the state so that people can know their (COVID-19) status,” the court observed.
“COVID-19 patients are running from pillar to post to get admitted whereas a large number of beds in government hospitals are lying vacant. The state is duty-bound to provide staff to man the wards. Media reports have shown the pathetic condition of patients which has pained this court,” the Bench said.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said, “I saw pictures yesterday which were shocking. Even the right to decent departure is enshrined under Article 21.”
“Look at the condition of hospitals. Bodies are there in the wards. Mumbai is testing 16,000 to 17,000 whereas in Delhi it’s falling below 7,000. The media has highlighted this issue,” the bench said.
It said there were instances when the relatives of the deceased were unable to attend their funerals.
The court took note of the submissions of the Centre which in its detailed guidelines issued on March 15 stated how dead bodies should be dealt with and said, "But no one is following the directives. Relatives are not being informed of the death."