The Supreme Court of India dismissed a Public Interest Litigation which complained of ineffective implementation of government guidelines as a result of which citizens who require immediate/consistent medical attention (such as cancer patients and pregnant women) are suffering.
A Bench comprising of Justices NV Ramana, Sanjay Kishan Kaul and BR Gavai, observed that notice could not be issued on the basis of one news report, and therefore, proceeded to dismiss the PIL. Senior Advocate Sonia Mathur represented the Petitioner.
The petition, filed by Advocate-on-Record Charu Mathur and Advocate Puneet Pathak on behalf of Advocate Noor Rampal, sought for "issuance of directions to the government authorities/hospitals to ensure effective implementation of 'essential' exceptions, in terms of medical emergencies, to the nationwide lockdown declared during the times of the Coronavirus pandemic, also knowns as COVID-19".
The issue highlighted in the plea is regarding the fact that the entire healthcare set-up has been completely dedicated to fighting COVID-19, which has inadvertently led to patients suffering from diseases such as cancer, HIV and renal diseases being unable to access immediate medical facilities.
"It is essential to consider that such patients are immuno-compromised and in the current situation are facing immense hardships with most OPDs and operation theatres across the country being closed down".
The plea goes on to state that despite the national lockdown being subject to "essential" exceptions such as the provision of "emergency/lifesaving medical needs", the same is not being implemented and therefore, lives of various patients are at stake. AIIMS New Delhi had also issued a circular regarding emergency/lifesaving surgeries to be taken up with immediate effect.
"..the continuance of emergency/lifesaving surgeries in terms of the aforesaid circular is not being implemented at the ground level thereby exposing cancer, HIV patients etc. to a considerable threat to their lives".
Reference has been made to a lady named Maitri, who is in the middle of treatment for oral cancer at AIIMS and has not been able to receive treatment for ulcers on her tongue, and therefore, she has been left in severe pain.
Therefore, the plea seeks to bring to attention that lives of various citizens who are in the midst of irreversible stages of their illnesses/diseases cannot be overlooked in the endeavor to fight the catastrophe.
Furthermore, it has also been stated that several states have curtailed outreach services for immunization and maternal health services such as ante-natal checkups.
"It is pertinent that public health experts have warned that such a move could lead to an increase in maternal mortality and lower the already low immunization levels in most States."
The plea asserts that "an effective mechanism needs to be devised to make sure that the essential means of survival for any citizen are not compromised with". In light of the same, the strict implementation of the directions regarding the need to address urgent medical exigencies of all citizens during the lockdown as they fall under the category of "essential" exceptions to the lockdown, must be ensured by government authorities/hospitals.