Recently, the Gujarat High Court, while taking suo-moto cognizance of the COVID situation in the State of Gujarat, said that it was at pains to observe that although all efforts were being put in by the State Government to combat the situation of the COVID-19 Pandemic, yet, unfortunately, the people at large were not cooperating.
The Division Bench of Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Justice J. B. Pardiwala observed that,
"As a High Court, whatever is expected of it to be done in the current situation is being done, but unfortunately, people are not paying heed to what the Court has been saying over a period of time. At this point in time, we are now left with only one thing to do and that is to request the people at large with folded hands to cooperate with the authorities and follow the norms and protocols prescribed and, more particularly, take care of themselves individually." (emphasis supplied)
The Court further noted that hundreds of young men and women, boys and girls gather on the public streets in the evening hours, more particularly, at the most happening places in Ahmedabad. Most of those are to be seen without wearing mask.
Therefore, the Court suggested that the norms and protocols, as prescribed by the State Government, time to time, need to be scrupulously followed, and this applies even to the political leaders of the State, senior and junior.
Most importantly, the Court remarked,
"The political leaders of the State are expected to lead their masses and not by themselves flout the norms or the rules and regulations prescribed to combat the Pandemic. The flouting of the norms at the end of the political leaders would set a bad example for the people at large, and the same may prompt the people to defy the norms." (emphasis supplied)
"Stop playing on the back foot"
The Court said that it was of the view that the State Government has been working hard and taking all the necessary steps required to control the Pandemic. However, the Court was constrained to observe that despite putting the best of its efforts, the Government has been getting caught unaware and it gets into action only after the situation worsens.
The Court further remarked,
"In other words or rather in simple words, we may say that the State Government should now stop playing on the back foot."
In this context, the Court directed the State Government to issue appropriate orders to the concerned authorities to put all the Districts across the State on high alert and start taking appropriate action and steps to curb the surge of the spread of the virus. The Ahmedabad model was directed to be made applicable for this purpose.
"It is no easy job being on COVID duty"
In the end, the Court also took note of the fact that the final year M.B.B.S students, more particularly, the Nursing students around 900 in numbers have, with a sense of responsibility, joined the services as 'Corona Sahayaks'.
The Court said that it is no easy job being on COVID duty as the nature of the virus is such that it arouses fear in the strongest of minds.
The High Court was delighted and at the same time thankful to the medical and Nursing students who have decided to lend their service and knowledge in this fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
In this context, the Court observed,
"They may not be Doctors or Nurses but they can play the role of necessary members of the care team. We are pleased to see these students realize and acknowledge their service as being crucial to the already overwhelmed healthcare system. The helping hand provided by the medical and nursing students will significantly reduce the burden of the front line doctors and nurses." (emphasis supplied)
Court's final suggestion for the State Government
Lastly, the Court also took note of something pointed out to it by Mr Ansin Desai, the learned senior counsel in the course of the hearing. Mr Desai alleged that the State Government, over a period of time, has been suppressing the true figures of the COVID deaths and COVID positive cases.
To this, the Court said,
"We did not propose to go into this question as, even otherwise, it is a highly disputed question of fact. We could have seriously called upon the State Government on this issue, but we take it that the figures which are disclosed or declared at the end of the day are true and correct figures. We may only observe without alleging that if there is any element of truth in what has been pointed out by Mr. Desai, then surely it is not in the public interest." (emphasis supplied)
The Court further said,
"It is necessary to disclose the true and correct figures of the COVID deaths and COVID positive cases so that people may be able to understand and comprehend the seriousness of the situation. People will not take things for granted. This will definitely have a psychological impact on the society at large. This aspect should be borne in mind by the State Government as a suggestion from this Court." (emphasis supplied)
The PIL has been posted for further hearing on 9th October 2020.
It may be noted that on Friday (13th March), the Gujarat High Court had registered a suo moto Public Interest Litigation titled "Precautionary Measures In The Wake Of The Pandemic of Corona Virus (COVID-19)".
Notably, on 22nd May 2020, while issuing a slew of directions for the management of COVID-19 situation and related issues in Gujarat, the Gujarat High Court had recalled the role of the ship "Carpathia" which acted as a saviour of many victims of the Titanic tragedy.
The Court observed that the tragic saga of the Titanic teaches us that our fate is uncertain, governed by the powerful forces of nature.
"We face a similar tragedy today, in the form of a global pandemic caused by a contagious virus we barely have any power over. What we do have power over is ourselves".
Urging everyone to do the needful to help the community in every manner possible, the Court said, "We all should become the 'Carpathia".
Case Title: Suo Motu v. State Of Gujarat & 2 Other(s)
Case No.: WRIT PETITION (PIL) NO. 42 OF 2020
Quorum: Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Justice J. B. Pardiwala
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