Expressing grave concern about the rising number of cases in Aurangabad, the Bombay High Court on Friday warned strict action against those public servants and officials appointed for fighting the pandemic of coronavirus, who refuse to show up for work, Court even warned of a surprise visit to hospitals and quarantine centres to ensure that their is discipline in the concerned staff.
The division bench of Justices TV Nalawade and SD Kulkarni of the Aurangabad bench took suo motu cognizance of various news reports wherein the work done for controlling and preventing the spread of Covid-19 in Aurangabad district was criticised in a hearing on June 26 and directed the State to submit a detailed report regarding instances of dereliction of duty as public servants or officials refused to show up for work.
Court referred to reports about elected representatives of all the political parties including the ruling party had come together and they expressed dissatisfaction over the work done by the concerned to control and prevent the spread of Covid-19 virus in Aurangabad District. Moreover, the graph of the total number of cases every day in the district kept rising steadily with almost 500 cases in two days in June.
Also, there was a news item about more than 1000 teachers who were given the work of conducting a survey of people during this pandemic, but they did not turn up and virtually refused to do this work.
Court directed the State to submit a detailed report about the employees who stopped attending their duty in public hospitals and other public offices when they were expected to work for the prevention of spread of the virus. Moreover, a report was sought about the action taken against the employees who did not turn up to discharge the duty.
The Court noted on July 3 :
"Thus, as per directions, on July 3, the Amicus Rajendra Deshmukh submitted before the Court that a draft of the petition has been prepared. Hard copy is produced. It is taken on record. Whereas, Public Prosecutor DR Kale submitted that he has produced a compilation of some papers which contain the necessary directions given by the officers and authorities for preventing the spread of Covid-19 virus.
The learned Public Prosecutor submitted that though some actions are being taken against the public servants and against the persons who are not obeying the orders made by the officers and authority created under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, publicity is not given and that is why there is feeling that the authority is not acting.
This Court wants to go through the compilation produced by the learned Public Prosecutor in respect of the directions given and steps taken. It is a fact that the graph of the affected persons is still ascending in Aurangabad District and an alarming situation is created in Aurangabad District. This Court has already observed that only giving direction is not sufficient, the directions need to be actually implemented and the officers issuing directions need to see that the directions are actually implemented and for that he needs to visit the various sites. It appears that recently some officers have started visiting various sites to see that the directions are followed".
Amicus Rajendra Deshmukh brought to the notice of the Court that there is still no discipline in public servants and the persons who are asked to discharge the duty under the programme created to fight virus are remaining absent on duty. Specifically, the news item published in Friday's newspaper wherein it is informed that In Beed district, the data operator did not resume the duty and the Block Development Officer, who was supervising the work felt helpless and he kept stones at the place where the data operator was discharging the duty.
"It is unfortunate that even when this Court has given necessary directions in that regard, such things are happening. Such persons need to be suspended immediately and if they are appointed on contract basis, contract need to be terminated and criminal action needs to be taken against them. Invariably against every such person such action needs to be taken and things can be corrected only by taking such action."
Furthermore, the bench warned of surprise visits to hospitals and quarantine centres-
"This Court has expressed that this Court may visit the sites to see that there is discipline in the staff employed in the aforesaid work and they are discharging their duties seriously and there are no lapses whatsoever and the visit will be paid as surprise visit to the hospitals, to the quarantine institutions and even to the isolation wards and the containment zones. This Court is making it clear that if it is found that the persons who are expected to discharge the duty are not present on the spot and due to that the spread of virus is going on, this Court will be giving directions specifically in respect of those persons to register the crime against those persons immediately and those persons may be of any rank. This Court will not be sparing anyone if such lapses are found."
Notably, when the matter came up for hearing for the first time on June 26, the bench referred to a news item that the Commissioner of Aurangabad Corporation now wants to follow Kerala and Dharavi pattern in controlling the spread of the virus and observed-
"It is learnt that the Commissioner is now in home quarantine as his cook was infected due to this virus. If some steps were taken to prevent the spread of the virus then it is necessary to know as to which steps were taken if the pattern like Kerala and Dharvi were not followed in this region.
There is also news that the Divisional Revenue Commissioner expressed that there was lack of communication between the District Collector and Commissioner Aurangabad. It is unfortunate that there was lack of communication between these two officers of I.A.S. rank. It can be said that there is the possibility of involvement of ego matter. There is also the possibility of non-coordination and non-cooperation. In such a situation, all of them including the police machinery need to work together, but it appears that there was no such coordination in this region."
The next date of hearing in the matter is July 7.
Click here to download the order passed on July 3
Click here to download the order passed on June 26