The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the Centre to pass appropriate directions under the Disaster Management Act to the Chief Secretaries of all States/Union Territories to ensure that directions for payment of salaries to doctors and health workers are complied with.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the bench that non-payment of salary will attract penal consequences under the National Disaster Management Act in terms of the notification of the Centre.
The Court ordered that appropriate orders in this regard may be passed tomorrow itsef
The Court also ordered that quarantine facilities for doctors and healthworkers shall be ensured, even if they are not falling within the 'high risk exposure' category. Directorate of Health has been directed to ensure this by tomorrow.
This was after the bench noticed that the Centre's notification dealt with quarantine only for those health workers coming under the ambit of "high risk exposure".
The SG also informed the bench that many 5-star hotels have already been requisitioned for conversion as quarantine centres.
Senior Advocate KV Vishwanathan, appearing for the petitioner Arushi Jain, urged the Court to pass directions to ensure accountability from the State Governments in the matter of payment of salaries to doctors and healthcare workers.
The bench will consider the matter after four weeks to take stock of compliance.
A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, Sanjay Kishan Kaul & MR Shah passed the directions in a plea filed by Udaipur-based lawyer Arushi Jain seeking suitable accommodation and quarantine facilities for medical workers who are involved in treating of COVID-19 patients.
On June 12, basis the submission of Senior Advocate KV Vishwanathan regarding acquisition of premises in terms of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, for the setting up of proper accommodation, the Bench directed the petitioners to hand over their suggestions/concerns to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. The court had listed the matter for today thereafter.
Further to this, top Court had slammed the government for adopting a lackadaisical approach towards providing accommodation facilities to doctors and health workers at the frontline of Coronavirus crisis. The court also took note of the denial and withholding of their remuneration, directing the Petitioner to convey their suggestions/concerns to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
The bench had stated orally,
"We cannot have dissatisfied soldiers in this COVID war. The doctors are not being paid, these things are coming to light, what is this?"
In response to the plea an Affidavit had been filed by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, wherein it was submitted that though adequate measures and substantive efforts (for instance, 5-star hotels being used for accommodations for doctors) had been taken by the Government, the final responsibility to protect oneself lay with the doctors themselves.
The Bench, while responding that they had just received the Affidavit, stated that two aspects had to be considered:
"1. How to solve this problem of high risk exposure (for doctors handling COVID patients).
2. Accommodations for doctors with requisite parameters to curb the issues."
In her PIL, Dr. Jain had drawn the attention of the Court towards certain disturbing news articles coming from all across the country regarding the "harsh, deplorable and hard living conditions of doctors, nurses and support staff who are in the forefront for treating the patients suffering from Covid-19."
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