The Calcutta High Court on Friday directed the state government of West Bengal to file periodic reports with regard to the progress made by it in terms of tackling the menace of COVID-19 pandemic, while also detailing the steps taken for the same in terms of the guidelines issued by WHO and ICMR.
"We are of the view that WHO and ICMR being expert authorities in the field, their guidelines and advisories are required to be followed by all stakeholders including the State Administration and we are sure the same shall be done."
The order was passed in a batch of petitions raising various issued relating to the pandemic. The Petitioners had sought that the government be directed to:
While the court took stock of the reports submitted by the state government in terms of a previous direction, it was prompted to have a "deeper look" into the materials being produced by the State Government.
Therefore the bench of Chief Justice Thottathil B. Radhakrishnan and Justice Arijit Banerjee ordered the state government to submit relevant reports and materials by way of affidavit from time to time, without awaiting further orders from the Court.
Considerably, the order has been made notwithstanding the issue of maintainability being raised by the government. Dispelling the arguments on maintainability, the bench remarked,
"We are of the view that this is not an occasion or time for us to consider the maintainability of this writ petition and this is not a matter which should be thrown out at the threshold, since the question raised and which may arise on the basis of the materials on record prompts our conscience to have a deeper look into the materials that are being produced on behalf of the State Government… In such a situation, we proceed keeping open all issues for consideration as and when it becomes relevant to be dealt with in the form of adjudication."
In connection to a letter petition moved by Mr. Ritesh Tiwari alleging discrepancy in the systemic information which is being shared by the state government regarding the toll and status of containment of the pandemic, the bench observed that the state should give a "deeper look" into the requirement of testing more number of people and taking more samples on warfooting, in terms of the guidelines issued by the WHO and the ICMR, and submit a report accordingly.
"We think that having regard to the fact that the ICMR testing protocol and WHO guidelines require adherence to effective screening on warfooting, we need to be told by the State as to the acceleration of the rate of sample collection and testing which is being obtained on the aforesaid basis. This has to be reckoned qua all mandatory yardsticks," the bench directed.
A further direction was made to the state to submit a report on the manner of certification and the auditing of the reason for death being undertaken by the concerned authorities, before issuing the Death Certificate.
The matter will next be taken up on April 23, at 10.30 am.
Case Title: Dr. Faud Halim v. State of West Bengal & Ors. (and other connected letter petitions)
Case No.: WP No. 5328/2020
Quorum: Chief Justice Thottathil B. Radhakrishnan and Justice Arijit Banerjee
Appearance: Senior Advocate Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya and Advocate Raja Satyajit Banerjee (for Petitioners); Advocate General Kishore Dutta (for State)
Click Here To Download Order