Perusing the compliance report of the Director of Public Health and Family Welfare, the Telangana High Court on Monday observed that the state government's report is absolutely silent on the issue whether the dead bodies being released from hospitals are duly tested for the presence of Coronavirus or not.
"According to the Media Reports, the testing of the dead bodies is not being carried out", stated the Chief Justice-led bench.
It was argued before the division bench by the Advocate General that the Order, dated 26.05.2020, emphatically directing the Health Department to so test all dead bodies, has been challenged by the State before the Supreme Court.
"It is, indeed, trite to state that if the directions issued by this Court are not implemented by the respondents, this Court eventually would have no other option, but to issue contempt notice to the respondents for their intentional, and wilful disobedience of the orders passed by this Court. This statement is being made as a warning to the respondents, not to ignore the directions of this Court. For, neither the majesty of the law nor the majesty of the High Court, can be ignored by the respondents", the Court admonished the state.
The bench noted that the Advocate General has frankly conceded that the directions issued by this Court have not been stayed by the Supreme Court, so far.
"Since the directions have not been stayed by the Apex Court, the State Government is duty bound to carry out the directions. After all, these directions have been issued in order to protect the people of the State from the menace of COVID-19. Until and unless the dead bodies are duly tested for the presence of corona virus, and until and unless the true facts and figures are revealed to the public, through the Media Bulletins issued by the Government on a daily basis, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to curtail. and to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the State", reprimanded the High Court.
It continued to observe that in the absence of relevant data, as pointed out by different guidelines issued by the ICMR, the spread of the disease would be unknown to the Medical Department, and to the State Government. "Such ignorance would prevent the Government from formulating the correct and necessary policies for tackling COVID- 19 in the near future", said the bench.
Moreover, it cautioned that unless the correct figures are published for the information of the general public, people would have a mis-impression that COVID-19 has been reduced to the extent that they can disregard the safety measures prescribed by the Central Government, and the State Governments.
"If the guards are down, more people will become vulnerable to COVID-19", said the bench, stressing that it is imperative that all the directions issued by this Court are religiously and zealously implemented by the Health Department.
A bare perusal of the Report, along with the Media Bulletin issued by the Government on a daily basis clearly revealed to the bench that the factual position is not being divulged to public at large. "For, according to the Report, the number of positive cases as on 02.06.2020 are 239, yet according to the Media Bulletin dated 02.06.2020, and Media Bulletin dated 03.06.2020, the number of positive cases is 87 for 02.06.2020, and 121 for 03.06.2020. According to the Report, Pahadishareef falling within the Ranga Reddy District shows 32 positive cases, and Aziz Nagar also falling within Ranga Reddy District shows 5 positive cases. However, the Media Bulletin dated 02.06.2020 shows that in the Ranga Reddy District, there are only 7 positive cases", the bench pointed out the discrepancy.
Further, in the Order dated 26.05.2020, this Court had clearly opined that the availability of different medical equipments, such as PPE Kits, N-95 Masks, Surgeon/3-ply Masks, Sanitisers, Examination Gloves, and Surgical Gloves, which were shown as existing in the "stocks" is not a relevant factor. What is relevant is to know the distribution of all these items for the benefit of medical staff in each hospital dealing with COVID- 19 patients.
"This Court had hoped that the relevant information would be revealed in the present Report. However, the Report merely indicates the availability of these items in the "stocks" as on 02.06.2020. Merely because the Report claims that there are 7,21,039 PPE Kits available in the State and District Stores, is not heartening, but what is important to know is the number of PPE Kits being distributed in each hospital to the Doctors, and the medical staff", said the bench.
It reflected that Recently, the Media Bulletin indicates that even the Medical Doctors are falling victims to COVID-I9. According to one Report, 72 Doctors have come down with COVID-19. Consequently, 400 medical staff members should be quarantined. "Needless to say that this is an alarming number. Therefore, it is imperative that all the protective equipment should be distributed not only amongst the Doctors, but also amongst the other medical staff dealing with COVID-19 patients", required the Court.
By order, dated 26.05.2020, this Court had also directed the State to carry out random testing, and community testing. On Monday, it was informed that they are yet to commence as the State Government has placed an order for 25,000 kits, and until and unless these kits are received by the Medical Department,
"random testing", and "community testing" cannot be initiated.
The Court, accordingly, ordered the Director to give the complete facts, and the critical figures with regard to the number of COVID- 19 positive cases based on the numbers of testing carried out within the State from 26.05.2020 till 07.06.2020. He is
further directed to ensure that the Media Bulletin issued daily by the Government states the correct tacts. and figures, and that the relevant facts mentioned therein must not only be publishcd in the
Media Bulletin, but must also be published in the regional papers "so that the people are well aware of the extent and dangers of COVID-19".
"If the directions issued by this Court are not followed, this Court will hold Dr. Srinivasa Rao (the Director) personally liable, along with the Principal Secretary, Medical and Health
Department, for the disobedience of the directions issued by this Court", was the stern stand of the Court.
The Advocate General was directed to inform this Court whether the Government is planning to designate hospitals in other towns in the State as earmarked for treatment for COVID- I 9, or not? In case, such hospitals have been earmarked, the list of the sarne should be provided to this Court.
The Advocate General is also required to submit the information with regard to the establishment of the mobile labs, and with regard to the private testing labs, which are permitted to operate throughout the State. He is further ordered to furnish the information with regard to the present testing in the private hospitals in the Cities of Hyderabad, and Secunderabad.
Finally, the Government is directed to publicise the names and addresses, along with the telephone numbers of the private labs, or the private hospitals, where the testing for COVID-19 is permitted, and is being carried out, for the information of the general public.
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