The Bombay High Court, bench at Nagpur last week directed the Collector of Nagpur, Commissioner of Nagpur Municipal Corporation and other heads to "prepare proposals for installing CCTV cameras in the corridors of all institutional quarantine centres" and where the corridors are not available, at suitable places, for having "electronic surveillance" in order to check the movements of quarantined patients in and out of the rooms at the State's expenses. The Court gave a time of 10 days from the passing of the said order for sending names to the State or Central Government and to place the copy of the proposal on record.
The direction came by a division bench comprising of Justice Sunil B Shukre and Justice Avinash G Gharote while dealing with a suo moto PIL registered by the Court last year.
A Court appointed Nagpur Covid-19 Committee had convened on 7th April 2021 wherein serious deliberations were done in view of the "emergency situation arising out of explosion of Covid- 19 pandemic at Nagpur". In view of this, the Committee had given several valuable suggestions to the Court which were duly appreciated by the High Court.
Decisions Taken by Nagpur Covid-19 Committee for Pandemic Situation
- Procedure for Setting up Covid Hospital at Nagpur
The Committee resolved that the applications received by Nagpur Municipal Corporation for starting covid hospitals shall be processed within 24 hours.
Lauding the said decision, the Court opined thus:
"…There are only 109 hospitals which have registered themselves with Nagpur Municipal Corporation as the hospitals having authority to treat Covid patients and more and more hospitals which are already functioning in Nagpur city are required to enter themselves in the register as authorised Covid centres. On this backdrop, we feel that the decision taken by the Committee would go a long way in increasing infrastructural facilities to be provided for effectively treating Covid patients."
- Procedure to Undergo for Covid Testing at Nagpur
The Committee also decided that there shall be two types of testing which will be followed if any patient is advised covid test, one, the Antigen test and the second, RT-PCR test.
In case the result of the antigen test is negative, the person will also be required to undergo the RT PCR test. The importance of this procedure was highlighted in the Court by the representatives of the Indian Medical Association by submitting that whenever the Antigen test comes positive, in all probability the patient would also be found positive in RT-PCR test, but this is not so in the case of a negative Antigen test report as the possibility of a patient whose Antigen test report is negative as testing positive in RT-PCR test is substantial.
- Mechanism for Boosting Health Workers Morale
In order to boost the morale of health workers, the Committee decided to explore mechanism by involving NGOs and social workers.
In view of this, the Court requested the Committee to identify such NGOs and Social Workers or other stake holders and place a list so that "meaningful interaction" with them can be initiated and their assistance could be solicited by the Court to deal with the pandemic.
- Ensuring Mobilization of People taking Covid Vaccination
The Committee had made a request to the Court for ensuring that necessary direction be issued to the social organizations for ensuring mobilization of people taking the vaccine. The Court therefore requested the Committee to consider identifying the names of such organizations for necessary directions to be issued.
- Creating Teams for Monitoring Admission of Patients at Private Hospitals
Noting that it was a good initiative taken by the Committee by forming two teams consisting of Specialists fro Government Medical College to monitor admission of patients at Private Hospitals, the Court observed thus:
"Such step is essential in the present day scenario where the inflow of patients is very high while the outflow of patient from various hospitals is at a very low rate. In such a situation, management of availability of beds would have to be efficacious in the sense that only those patients who really require hospitalisation would be taken in and those patients who could be managed with quarantine at home or at the institutions or at a day care centre would be excluded from such hospitals."
In view of this, the Court directed the Managements of all private hospitals to scrupulously follow the admission criteria issued by the State for considering admission of Covid patients to their hospitals.
The Court also directed these Managements to cooperate with the teams constituted by Nagpur Covid 19 Committee whenever they pay visit in order to verify the admission process.
Court's Concern over Safety of Patients and Staff attending them
The Court also went ahead to express its concern over the safety of the patients and the staff attending to them at the institutional quarantine centres. The concern came in view of the fact that that there were some breaches of the conduct by covid positive patients and negligence by police officials deployed at the quarantined institutions.
"It has been further reported to us that because of such reckless and dangerous behaviour of some quarantined Covid patients at M.L.A. hostel, those entrusted with the duty to look after quarantined patients have started contracting Covid-19 and it has also been reported that one of the PWD engineers deputed there has contracted Covid-19 three times in less than an year. It is also reported that even the Executive Engineer in-charge of M.L.A. hostel has caught the infection twice. Such behaviour of quarantined Covid patients is highly deplorable and needs to be dealt with in a very stringent manner by the concerned Authority." The Court observed.
At the outset, the Court directed the Collector, Nagpur to take immediate steps for keeping quarantined Covid-19 patients in strict isolation of the degree prescribed under the applicable Rules/Regulations/SOP and if there are no such Rules or Regulations or SOP, to frame the same and bring them in force immediately.
Furthermore, the Court directed the Nagpur Covid 19 Committee to device a method for regular inspection of all institutional quarantine centres in Nagpur by an appropriate team with a mandate to take action then and there.
The Court also directed Commissioner of Police and Superintendent of Police, Nagpur to ensure that the police personnel deputed at all institutional quarantine centres, within and without city limits, diligently and sincerely perform their duty, especially by refraining themselves from using smart mobile phones for the purpose of entertainment and recreation while on duty and take stern action against the erring police personnel.
Installation of CCTV Cameras in order to Monitor Movements of Covid Patients at Nagpur
In view of the aforesaid observations the Court also directed the authorities to install CCTV cameras in the quarantined centres to have an electronic surveillance for checking movements of the patients.
"..We direct that CCTV cameras be installed in the corridors of all institutional quarantine centres and where the corridors are not available, at suitable places, so as to have electronic surveillance for checking the movements of quarantined patients in and out of the rooms at the State's expenses, proposals for which shall be prepared by the Collector, Nagpur; the Commissioner, Nagpur Municipal Corporation and other heads of the department under whose control the Centre is and send the same to the State Government/Central Government, as the case may be, for early sanction, within ten days of passing of the order. Copies of the proposals be placed on record." The Court directed.
Response Sought by the Court
The High Court sought response from the Committee on the following aspects:
- Creation of Day Care centres for treating Covid-19 patients requiring a few hours of treatment every day at such places like Sports Complexes, Mangal Karyalayas, Public Schools, Sports Club, hospitals of such institutions like Railways, Western Coal Fields, M.O.I.L. and so on and so forth, as soon as possible, preferably within two weeks
- Requisitioning the services of doctors having such qualifications as B.A.M.S., D.H.M.S., Unani and Ayush doctors to be deployed at Day Care Centres.
- Involving private hospitals in management of Day Care Centres and appealing to them to voluntarily spare some of their medical and nursing staff as for example 4 to 5 doctors and 4-5 nurses per private hospitals.
- Spelling out the difficulties in terms of supply of material and human resources faced by Health Authorities and management of private hospitals in Nagpur and specific suggestions for addressing the difficulties.
- For keeping the stock of necessary medicines and medical equipments/gadgets at Day Care Centres which would now be set up under the present directions of the Court so that all the medicines including Remdesivir and equipments/gadgets are available for their administration and use in fit cases at these centres.
The case will now be heard by the Court on 20th April 2021.
Title: Court on its own motion vs. Union of India and Ors. Bombay High Court, Nagpur.