Overriding a circular issued by the Maharashtra Government, the Supreme Court directed it to provide COVID-19 test results to patients and relatives directly.
A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, SK Kaul & MR Shah said that such a restriction imposed by the State Government should be done away with.
The Counsel appearing for State of Maharashtra stated that he shall advise the Maharashtra Government to review the circular.
The bench also stated that a status report regarding the ongoing state of affairs in Delhi as well as other states should be submitted every week and an expert committee must be formulated comprising doctors from the Centre & State to look into the issues so remedial action (if any) can be taken from time to time.
The Court also took note of the submission of ASG Sanjay Jain (appearing for the Government of NCT Delhi) that no FIRs were pending against doctors in the state.
"The contemplated action against the doctor has been withdrawn" said Jain.
"No FIRs should be pending against hospitals also" said Justice Kaul.
On last hearing date, the Court had pulled up the GNCTD for filing FIRs against doctors for raising complaints.
Further, Court noted that LNJP Hospital at New Delhi had submitted that cameras shall be installed in all wards of the hospitals. "Hospitals in all states shall be directed to do the same" said Justice Bhushan.
The top court also stated that the Centre must issue a uniform advisory to all states regarding Covid testing rates, with the leeway of devising their state-specific regulations.
In light of this, the bench considered various intervention applications but did not pass any specific orders. It asked all intervenors to provide their specific suggestions in writing to the Solicitor General as well as counsel of respective states for appropriate consideration.
"We are aware of the unfortunate incident that your grandfather had to go through. It depicts the sorry state of affairs in Delhi. Provide your suggestions to the SG", Justice Kaul told one of the intervenors Mr. Udian Sharma who's grandfather passed away on account of alleged gross negligence by Hospital authorities.
Taking note of a circular released by the Maharashtra Government pertaining to non-giving of reports of Coronavirus test to patients and/or their relatives, Court stated that the same shall be done away with. At this juncture, Bench stated that the above-mentioned directions shall be available at length on the SC website today itself.
On June 17, the Court had pulled up the Delhi Government for targeting doctors and healthcare workers while hearing in its suo motu case titled "In Re Proper Treatment Of COVID-19 Patients And Dignified Handling Of Dead Bodies In The Hospitals, Etc.".
While noting that the response of Delhi government on Covid patient care was vague and incomplete, Court directed the Government to file a "better affidavit" laying down its response to management of the Coronavirus crisis.
While slamming the Delhi Government's lackadaisical approach, the bench told ASG Sanjay Jain (Counsel for Delhi Government) that the Government was suppressing numbers and threatening doctors with filing of FIRs.
"The doctors and nurses are soldiers. We are fighting a war. If we don't treat them properly, how will you win the war? Your approach seems to be that you're filing FIRs against doctors. You are shooting the messenger, the paramedics, the doctors! You are suppressing numbers and threatening doctors" - Bench had remarked
Further, the bench had remarked that all unfortunate steps taken by the Delhi Government towards health care workers must be withdrawn.
On June 11, the bench had issued notice to the Governments of NCT of Delhi, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu over management of COVID-19 situation and had sought their response regarding the management of patient care and handling of dead bodies in hospitals.
The top court had also issued notice to Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Hospital, New Delhi from where shocking visuals of mishandling of dead bodies of COVID-19 patients emerged.
Further to this, the bench had taken note of the abysmal testing rates in Delhi and the horrific scenes of hapless patients and undignified handling of dead bodies that had been brought to the fore by India TV's video report on June 10.
"India TV on June 10 highlighted a report on a video where patients have been in pathetic conditions. Dead bodies in the lobby, waiting area, wards...This is the state of a Govt hospital.."
Earlier, former Law Minister Senior Advocate Dr. Ashwani Kumar had written a letter drawing the attention of the Court towards various reported incidents, whereby persons suffering from Covid19 infection are being ill-treated and their dead bodies are being manhandled.
Senior Advocate had drawn the attention of the CJI towards a tragic indecent in Madhya Pradesh where an elderly man suffering from Covid was tied to a bed, after he allegedly failed to make payment of fees for his treatment.
He had stated that the Supreme Court had on multiple occasions recognised the "right to die with dignity" as a fundamental right and had asserted that the Court has the "duty and the power" to ensure that the law declared by it is actually enforced.
"It is requested that the Court takes suo-motu notice of the matter. In view of the shocking infraction of the fundamental right to dignity…Your Lordships are respectfully requested, to issue such orders, writs or other directions as will effectuate the citizens' right to die with dignity," Kumar stated in his letter.