The Calcutta High Court on Tuesday directed the state Government to conduct an autopsy on the body of an 18-yr-old boy, suspected to have suffered from Covid-19 and allegedly denied appropriate medical treatment.
The Court has further ordered the Government to videograph the post-mortem as well as performance of last rites and final cremation of the dead body.
The direction has come in a writ petition moved by the boy's parents, alleging that their son was denied medical treatment at two clinical establishments. Subsequently he was admitted at the Calcutta Medical College and Hospital, where he died the same night.
An FIR has been registered in the matter and as per the Additional Advocate General, appearing for the State, investigation into the incident is underway.
The Petitioners had moved the High Court seeking permission to be present during the Post Mortem and at the crematorium site.
In view of the submissions made by the AAG however, the single bench of Justice Debangsu Basak has denied the request for presence of parents during the autopsy or at the crematorium designated for disposal of COVID-19 patients but has ordered the Government to videograph the entire process and allow the Petitioners to perform their son's last rites, as per the ICMR Guidelines.
"The State Authorities will video record such Post Mortem. Such Post Mortem Report and the videograph thereof will be subject to directions of the appropriate Court. Upon Post Mortem being completed, the State Authorities will permit the petitioners to see mortal remains of the son. The State Authorities will also permit the petitioners to undertake such religious rituals as are permitted by ICMR guidelines on the deceased. The petitioners and every person present during such rituals will observe the ICMR guidelines in this regard," the order states.
The court further refused to permit the Petitioners to remain present during the cremation and observed,
"It would enure the benefit of public at large so as to minimize the presence of persons at the time of cremation of a person who is COVID positive or suspected to be COVID positive. The guidelines of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare does not require that the family members of the deceased need to be present at the crematorium itself."
It held that the State was "reasonable" in opposing the request for presence of Petitioners at the Covid dedicated crematorium.
"Given the nature of the pandemic presently, it would be prudent to err in favour of caution, if one is required to err...Presence of humans in large numbers is discouraged. Touching the dead body of a COVID 19 or a suspected COVID 19 patient is discouraged," the bench said.
"The State will allow the petitioners to view the mortal remains of the son after the Post Mortem and to perform the last rites at a place to be designated by the State…the State will videorecord the entire process of the viewing of the deceased by the petitioners, the performance of the last rites in accordance with the COVID-19 guidelines as referred to above and the ultimate cremation of the deadbody. The State will submit a report to such effect on the next date."
On the issue of medical negligence, the Court has sought the State's reply within a period of one month.
"It is clarified that the Court did not decide the issue as to whether the deceased died due to COVID-19 or not.
Let affidavit-in-opposition be filed within four weeks from date; reply thereto, if any, be filed a week thereafter," the bench ordered.
Case Title: Srabani Chatterjee & Anr. v. State of West Bengal & Ors.
Case No.: WP No. 5930/2020
Quorum: Justice Debangsu Basak
Appearance: Senior Advocate Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya with Advocates Jayanta Narayan Chatterjee, Soumya Dasgupta, Samim Ahmed, Bikram Banerjee, Sudipta Dasgupta, Jamiruddin Khan and Sayanti Sengupta (for Petitioners); Addl. Advocate General Abhratosh Majumdar with Advocates Amitesh Banerjee and Ipsita Banerjee (for State)
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