Delhi High Court has passed a series of directions to Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, and the Delhi Government to ensure proper facilities and treatment are provided to the residents of night shelters set up within the AIIMS premises.
While highlighting various factors that need to be addressed by all the authorities, the Division Bench of Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Rajnish Bhatnagar directed the authorities to ensure that there is proper coordination among them to curb the further spreading of COVID19 in night shelters, and to provide adequate treatment to those who are already infected.
After perusing the video recording submitting in pursuance of court's last order, it was observed that all the concerns raised by Ms Rachna Malik in relation to lack of water, which was leading to unhygienic sanitation conditions; lack of drinking water; lack of record being maintained of the persons/visitors visiting the night shelter home, are correct.
When Ms Malik informed the court that after last order DUSIB swung into action and ensured water and sanitation facility, but the log register is still not adequately maintained, the court noted that a system should be put in place where sufficient checks and vigilance is maintained with regard to maintenance of facilities at the night shelters in question, and other night shelters being run and managed by DUSIB in the NCT of Delhi.
The court observed that:
'Though it appears that after the passing of our last order the senior officials of DUSIB, as well as the Chief Secretary, Delhi, have become alive to the problems highlighted by us , and corrective steps have been taken, our apprehension is that the situation may again go back to what it was, once Court's monitoring stops.'
The court further directed DUSIB to accredit NGOs and individual social workers who are associated with the night shelters, and to involve the NGOs and individual social workers in the matter of supervision of such like night shelters. Further, any grievances, complaints or suggestions that DUSIB may receive in respect of any of its night shelters from such NGOs, or social workers, should firstly be taken on record and actioned without any delay.
For ensuring adequate sanitization at night shelters, the court directed DUSIB to provide liquid soaps and hand sanitizers at such night shelters. In order to ensure decongestion of night shelters, the court directed DUSIB to ensure that only patients and their immediate attendants are permitted to occupy the night shelters at AIIMS, and other night shelters in the vicinity of other Government hospitals in Delhi. All other occupants, who are not receiving treatment at the concerned Government hospital, should be shifted to the other night shelters managed by DUSIB.
'If there are patients and their attendants, who require visits to the Government hospital occasionally, they should be shifted out of such
like night shelters to night shelters where they could be accomodated, and transport facilities should be made available to them, so that they could visit the Government hospital concerned as and when they are granted appointment, or they need to visit the hospital.'
At this point, Mr Anand Varma, who was appearing for AIIMS, informed the court that AIIMS would be willing to undertake the supervision of the night shelter, managed by DUSIB, by following the same Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), as is applicable to the Vishram Sadan.
Mr Varma also stated that AIIMS could take over the night shelter in the Vishram Sadan complex, and manage the same like the other Vishram Sadans to the exclusion of DUSIB.
On the issue of the spread of COVID19 in the night shelter the court expressed dissatisfaction with the handling of the situation by observing that:
'The failure to test all the occupants of the night shelter, who were more than 90 in number, may have led to a further outbreak of the viral disease amongst many other persons with whom they may have come in contact.'
To ensure that the same incident is not repeated, the court directed the authorities to ensure that all such occupants of the night shelter, who are found Covid-19 positive, are quarantined so that they do not infect others, who may have not got the infection yet.
While observing that there was a lack of coordination between the authorities to deal with the residents of night shelters who tested positive for COVID19, the court believed that the same can be solved by both AIIMS and the GNCTD nominating their respective Nodal Officers, whose contact details, including email ids and mobile phone numbers should be exchanged between them. Any communication between AIIMS and GNCTD in relation to Covid-19 patients should be addressed to the Nodal Officers of the other party.
Lastly, the court directed AIIMS to take individual, case by case, decisions with regard to the admission of any new COVID-19 patient from amongst the residents of the night shelter, whose results are yet to come.
Petitioner in the present case was represented by Senior Advocate Darpan Wadhwa and Advocates Arjun Syal, Manjira Dasgupta, Mithu Jain, Vidisha Kumar, and Akhyil Wahal.
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