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SC Stays Telangana HC Direction To Conduct Mandatory COVID19 Testing On Dead Bodies [Read Order]

Sanya Talwar
17 Jun 2020 9:58 AM GMT
SC Stays Telangana HC Direction To Conduct Mandatory COVID19 Testing On Dead Bodies [Read Order]
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The Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed the Telangana High Court Order passed on June 8 directing the state  to conduct Covid19 sampling on dead bodies before they are released from government hospitals.

A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, SK Kaul & MR Shah observed that the Telangana High Court passed a "premature" order.

The HC direction was challenged by the Telangana government. Senior Advocate Shyam Divan appeared for the Telangana government.

On June 8, while taking stock of the compliance report filed by the State Government with regard to testing being conducted in the State, the HC had admonished the Government and had noted,

"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"

Further to this, the Court had noted,

"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".

On May 26, while hearing a batch of PILs, the HC had passed a detailed order while hearing a batch of 5 connected PIL's, filed for purposes of challenging the inaction of the State Government in terms of COVID19 testing in the state and towards plight of migrant workers.

Stating that the state cannot hide behind the "big leaf of financial constraints", the court noted that it "expects the Government to rise to the occasion and carry out its constitutional duty to tackle the menace of COVID19 to the best of its ability".

On May 14 HC while adjourning the matter to May 26 as the next date of hearing, had directed the state to strictly comply with the guidelines issued by the WHO and ICMR to conduct Covid19 sampling on dead bodies.

Further, court directed the State Government to provide comprehensive data viz. testings for coronavirus performed within the state and number of people quarantined in the State from March 11 to May 25, 2020.

One of the PILs filed by Professor Vishweshwar Rao before Telangana High Court, inter alia had averred that inaction of part of the Government authorities circumvents the Constitutional guarantee of Right To Life as non-testing of dead bodies for COVID19 defeats the inundated and ongoing process of contact-tracing.

The plea moved on behalf of State of Telangana stated that the High Court was not justified in issuing the directions as it did not appreciate that the guidelines issued by the Indian Council of Medical Research are modified from time to time, keeping in mind the evolving situational crisis. 

Further, the plea stated that the Court had grossly erred in finding fault with the approach for handling the crisis on the basis of news reports and that in fact, the state and its instrumentalities had been duly following the guidelines for testing in the state.

"It is submitted that Hon'ble High Court heavily relied upon the reports published in various Newspapers with regard either alleged under-reporting or under testing of the COVID 19 cases whereas the fact of the matter is that the all countries across the globe are facing serious constraints with regard to the testing kits compelling the States to rationalize the use of the available test kits in most potent manner for larger public good" - The Plea states

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