The High Court of Jammu and Kashmir took up various matters regarding the lockdown imposed in view of the Coronavirus outbreak. The hearing was conducted using video-conferencing and voice calls and was convened pursuant to the last Order of the Court dated 24th March, 2020.
LEASE LINE CONNECTIONS FOR JUVENILE JUSTICE BOARDS AND OBSERVATION HOMES It was submitted by Ashok Kumar Srivastava, the Chief General Manager of BSNL that a financial estimate of Rs. 33.64 lakhs for provision of the lease line connections to 24 locations of Juvenile Justice Boards and Observation Homes had been submitted to ICPS as well as Social Welfare Department of J&K. Accordingly, the Court directed for the estimates to be scrutinized at the earliest by the authorities and the same to be informed to BSNL. AVAILABILITY OF NET FACILITIES TO COURT SITES The Court was informed by Registrar (IT) that the order of the court could not be effected due to lack of access to the courts. In light of the same, a Core Group has been constituted, comprising of representatives of NIC and BSNL, as well as the judges concerned. Assurance was provided that as soon as the functioning of the court would commence, the needful would done. BACKUP FACILITIES AND WATER CONNECTION FOR JJB AND OTHER INSTITUTIONS Amit Gupta, AAG informed the Court that backup facilities in the nature of inverters etc. were provided at the JJB, so that video conferencing could be conducted. He further submitted that water was being supplied by more than 200 tankers regularly and that all the institutions were being taken care of. PILGRIMS STRANDED AT VAISHNO DEVI Monika Kohli, the Amicus Curiae, submitted to the Court that due to the sudden lockdown, about 400 pilgrims were stranded at Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine, Katra, and that these pilgrims were being asked to vacate their current lodgings. The Court accordingly directed the CEO of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board and the Deputy Commissioner, Reasi to "ensure that these pilgrims are not asked to vacate their current lodgings and their needs are fully provided for till such time as the lockdown persists". The Central Government and the Government of UT of J&K were directed to ensure that their notifications/directions would not lead to dislodging of people from their habitations and that provisions or facilities are strictly complied with. MISBEHAVIOUR OF ISOLATED PERSONS Advocate Faisal Qadri submitted that doctors were apprehensive about their own security as persons who had been isolated at the two hospital facilities in Srinagar on account of being suspected/infected COVID-19 patients, were misbehaving and damaging facilities.
The Court observed that: "There can be no manner of doubt that the safety and security of all health providers which would include not only doctors but also the nurses, the paramedics, mess boys, safai karamcharies as well as administrative staff at all government facilities has to be strictly ensured. Such care and protection has to be provided to all health care givers in all hospitals in the Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh as well."
Accordingly, the Court directed the Secretary, Department of Health and Medical Education of both the Union Territories together with the IGP, Jammu, IGP, Kashmir and IGP, Ladakh to ensure that complete safety and security is provided to the personnel who are serving at all government facilities. They also noted that if needed, security should also be beefed up to ensure that no person leaves the medical facility. The Court called for strict action to be taken against the persons found violating any instruction/order issued by the Central Government and the UT Government as well as provision of law, especially if the conduct would result in the spread of COVID-19 infection and endanger lives. SECURITY FOR MIGRANT LABOURERS Advocate Qadri also raised the issue with regard to the security and availability of basic facilities to the migrant labourers. To this, the Court directed both the UT Governments to ensure that keeping in view the movement restriction, the same is strictly enforced and that the accommodation, health, care and the needs of the migrant labourers, if not already provided for, are also addressed. PROVISIONS FOR PRISONERS Amit Gupta, the AAG submitted to the Court that an advisory had been issued by the DG, Prisons and that full medical and health facilities have been ensured to the prisoners. It was also submitted that there was a seclusion of the prisoners from exposure to the general public, and hence, the infection was being taken cared of. Additionally, every effort was being made to ensure the health and safety of the prisoners in Jammu and Kashmir. UNION TERRITORY OF LADAKH It was submitted by Vishal Sharma, ASGI, that all the necessary notifications and orders under the Epidemic Diseases Act and the National Disaster Management Act had been issued and were being strictly enforced. Religious institutions were closed and infected persons were being provided the necessary treatment. Also, all steps for quarantining person who were required to be kept under scrutiny were being effected. However, he further submitted that no instructions had been received from the NIC. Therefore, the Court directed for the last order and this order to be sent to the State Informatic Officer of the NIC, J&K on email by the Registrar Judicial and Sharma. FOUR EMAILS RECEIVED BY THE REGISTRAR GENERAL 1. Advocate Amzi Arthur John, treasurer of Young Lawyers Assocation, made several suggestions and the Court observed that they deserved to be placed before the competent authorities. Accordingly, the Registrar Judicial was directed to send a copy of the email to the office of the Divisional Commissioner, Jammu as well as Divisional Commisioner, Srinager for consideration. 2. Advocate Mohammad Shaqib Shah sent an updated email requesting for publicising certain information as well as provision certain facilities to the health care facilitators. The Court found substance in the suggestions and directed the Registrar Judicial to forward the email to Secretary, Department of Health and Medical Education as well as Secretary, Department of Information and Technology for examining the suggestions. 3. Advocate Karman Singh Johal sent an email purporting to bring on record the plight of Indian citizen who is student of the New York University, USA, and is stranded along with other Indian citizens in USA. The Court noted that Indian citizens, wheresoever located, need to be cared and provided for. As the email stated that the Consulate of India at New York has not been assisting the Indian citizens stranded in the USA, the Court issued directions to the Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs to look into the matter of the difficulties being faced by Indian nationals in the USA and to ensure that their essentials are being provided for. The evacuation of Indian citizens was also requested. Accordingly, the Court directed the MEA to look into the aspect of evacuation and that the issue would be addressed on priority. The Indian Consulate was also directed to assure that every assistance would be provided to the Indian nationals who are stranded abroad. 4. Advocate Nitin Bakshi sent an email complaining of excessive violence by the police and enclosing a video allegedly from the Jammu area. The Court observed that verification of the authenticity of the enclosure would not be possible, but excesses or physical violence by the police is not permissible. Accordingly, the Court directed for the representation of Bakshi to be forwarded by the Registrar Judicial to the IGP, Jammu for examination. The IGP (Jammu) has been directed to place a report in this regard before the Court before the next date of hearing. CONDITION OF PRISONERS IN OTHER PARTS OF THE COUNTRY A grievance was placed before the Court regarding the safety and well-being of prisoners in other parts of the country. The Secretary, UT of JK has been directed to ascertain and ensure the well-being of all such prisoners. The Court also noted that the Supreme Court of India had passed an Order dated 23.03.2020 in a Suo Moto Writ Petition (Civil) titled RE: CONTAGION OF COVID-19 VIRUS IN PRISONS regarding the constitution of the High Powered Committee requiring the examination of the prisoners who are required to be released from prisons. The Court directed for an interim report regarding the functioning of the Committee to be placed before the Court by the Home Secretary, UT of Jammu and Kashmir before the next date of hearing. FLOUTING OF LOCKDOWN RULES The Court observed that large number of people have been resorting to their usual strolls, loitering and morning walks in local parks etc. To counter the same, the Court issued a direction to law enforcement authorities and park owning authorities (all municipal corporations, development authorities) ) to prevent access to public parks, etc which are normally used for such purposes by the citizens. The law enforcing agencies were also directed to ensure the lockdown and prevent any kind of activity which could adversely impact social distancing in any manner. APPRECIATION FOR UT OF J&K AND LADAKH AUTHORITIES The Court finally placed on record its appreciation of the manner in which the authorities in the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir as well as Ladakh in addressing the current crisis. The Court noted that not a single complain on the functioning on any aspect of the situation has been made, and the counsels have also commended the manner in which the crisis is being addressed by the Deputy Commissioners on the ground. "We hereby record our appreciation of the handling of this unprecedented and difficult situation of ensuring the lockdown as also the manner in which the whole issue of containment of the spread of COVID-19 infection and its treatment is being addressed by the administrations." The matter is now listed on 3rd April, at 11.00 am.
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