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J & K HC Takes Stock Of Lockdown Situation in UTs: Says State Bound To Ensure Availability of Essentials In Far-Flung Areas [Read Judgment]

Mehal Jain
5 Jun 2020 12:17 PM GMT
J & K HC Takes Stock Of Lockdown Situation in UTs: Says State Bound To Ensure Availability of Essentials In Far-Flung Areas [Read Judgment]
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The Jammu and Kashmir High Court on Wednesday issued notice on a plea urging that on account of the lockdown, basic needs of people living in far flung areas of Gurez, Tangdhar, Machail and Uri, who are not only economically weak but are going through miserable time, are not being met.

The Chief Justice-led bench observed that "the prayer though couched differently is really in the nature of cry for help for basic necessitiesfrom far flung areas of Kashmir". It noted that these people are in desperate need of basic requirements of survival.

"This is a very critical issue and the official respondents are bound to ensure that the essentials are made available to every person living in the Union Territory", said the division bench.

It required a copy of the application to be served on the UT, asking the Additional Advocate General to respond by the next date of the hearing, the State Legal Services Authority for ensuring the necessary intervention and assistance to the needy. "The matters be examined by the Department of Social Welfare and appropriate action be taken to assist the residents of the Union Territory in Kashmir living in far flung areas and action taken report be filed before us before the next date", the court ordered.

E-Connectivity of Courts

Further, the bench asserted that "the availability of e-connectivity to the courts is an issue of ensuring access to justice to the citizens". Calling it "a fundamental right", the court declared that it "cannot be impeded in any manner".

"In the current times of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant restrictions, no court can discharge essential judicial functions if there is non- availability of e-connectivity", it proceeded to hold.

These observations were in context of an instance of burning of the converter and router installed in a Judicial Magistrate First Class's court in the Udhampur district last month.

The bench dispelled the submission that this equipment got burnt as the AC main supply was extended directly instead of through UPS by the "Court authorities"- "We have no manner of doubt that installation of the above equipment which would include the converter and router stands undertaken by the BSNL and its officials. None of the court officers would have a capacity or the technical knowledge to do so. It would appear that the fault is attempted to be unreasonably fastened on court authorities without application of mind". It directed the BSNL to forthwith install the converter and router in the court.

On being informed that in four court sites, there is some LAN IP conflict with regard to which communications have been addressed to NIC at Delhi, the Court required copies of these communications to be made available to its Registrar (IT) as well so that the Registrar (IT) can take up the matter with the concerned authorities. With regard to ten sites for which VSAT facilities are needed, the bench noted that the BSNL is reported to have addressed a letter to the Department of

Justice as back as on 20 th November 2019 and a response is awaited from the Department of Justice. "Let the Secretary, Department of Justice, Government of India examine this issue on an urgent basis and ensure that the needful is done before the next date of hearing", the court directed.

Ensuring provision of care to dependants/families of healthcare personnel/government personnel/officials engaged in COVID-19 management

Taking on record a status report dated 1 st June 2020 that has been filed by the Social Welfare Department, the bench announced that it is "heartening to note" that extensive steps which have been taken by the Department to facilitate the dependents/families of healthcare personnel/government personnel/officials engaged in COVID-19 management.

"5773 numbers of dependents/family members of COVID 19 warriors were contacted, out of which 127 reported grievances and redressals were carried out at the district level. Subsequently additional 8217 calls were made in different districts to dependents/family members, out of which 204 reported grievances of various categories such as need of; medicine, ration, movement passes, personal protection kits (PPK), and transportation. The nodal officers at the district level in coordination with the line departments have been providing all kind of necessary help to redress the grievances made by the dependents/family member of COVID 19 warriors", narrated the bench, recording its appreciation for the department.

The Court also took note of a status report filed on behalf of the Health and Medical Education Department placing the steps taken by the Department for ensuring supply to doctors in government hospitals of sufficient quantities of personal protective equipments (PPEs) including goggles, face- shield, mask, gloves, coverall/gowns (with or without aprons), head cover and shoe cover.

Declaring that no directions are called for from the court in this behalf, it observed that the Department shall ensure availability of the kits to all the healthcare personnel.

As regards the issues of Safety, Care, Health and Violence against Healthcare Professionals and Clinical Establishments and the need for a legislative framework, the bench took on record the status report filed by the Health and Medical Education Department and the reply of the Doctors Association of Kashmir. "Given the fact that the Government of India is vitally concerned with the issue under consideration, let all reports on this issue also be made available to the ASGI", it directed.

Plight of cattle and stray animals amidst the lockdown

Cognizance of this issue was taken on 12 th May 2020 and the Jammu and Srinagar Municipal Corporations were directed to file their action taken reports with regard to measures taken to mitigate the difficulties being faced by stray cattle and animals. The court had also made an observation with regard to ensuring maintenance of veterinary services for animals. The respondents were directed to examine the need for ensuring availability of these services during the lockdown and notifying the period of their availability in the Union Territories. The respondents were also directed to examine the need for permitting private veterinary clinics from continuing to operate during the lockdown and the schedule thereof.

Perusing the status reports, the bench concluded that all authorities are sensitive and cognisant of their responsibilities and extensive measures are being undertaken to ensure the welfare of stray cattle and animals.

One direction, however, was deemed necessary- Noting that The concerned authorities do not appear to have addressed the issue of scheduling availability of veterinary facilities (including those in the private field) in the Union

Territories, the bench required that this aspect may also be examined and the steps taken in this regard be placed on record within one week.

Finally, the court took on record an action plan qua exit of COVID-19 Lockdown placed before the bench on behalf of the UOI by the ASG. The Court required a copy of the same to be shared with the AAG who shall place it before the concerned authorities for examination as to whether similar measures are required to be taken in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir as well. 

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