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COVID-Plea Before Supreme Court Seeks Compensation For Families Of Patients Who Died Due To Oxygen Shortage, Action Against Authorities

Radhika Roy
7 May 2021 3:54 PM GMT
COVID-Plea Before Supreme Court Seeks Compensation For Families Of Patients Who Died Due To Oxygen Shortage, Action Against Authorities
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A PIL has been filed before the Supreme Court seeking compensation for families of COVID-19 affected patients who died due to oxygen shortage, stricter punishments for violation of COVID-19 protocols as well as action against authorities for gross negligence.The plea also prays for the submission of a comprehensive "National Plan" before the Apex Court which not only deals with...

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A PIL has been filed before the Supreme Court seeking compensation for families of COVID-19 affected patients who died due to oxygen shortage, stricter punishments for violation of COVID-19 protocols as well as action against authorities for gross negligence.

The plea also prays for the submission of a comprehensive "National Plan" before the Apex Court which not only deals with the prevailing second wave, but also indicates whether any preparation has been put in place for tackling a possible third wave of the virus. It also seeks initiation of proceedings against concerned representatives and officials for committing gross negligence, leading to the spread of the virus and deaths due to COVID-19.
Lastly, the plea seeks urgent directions to be issued to the Centre and States to provide financial and medical assistance for the treatment of all such patients who contracted COVID-19 while attending the Maha Kumbh Mela and those who contracted the virus while attending election rallies and participating in the election process in States of West Bengal, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry, and Uttar Pradesh.
Drafted by Advocate Nachiketa Vajpayee and filed by Advocate Sriram Parakkat on behalf of social activist Deepak Raj Singh, the plea submits that it addresses the gross negligence on part of the Respondents, leading to inhumane deaths of thousands of COVID positive patients due to (i) lack of oxygen, medicines, beds and other healthcare facilities and; (ii) arbitrary and unreasonable grant of permissions for conducting Kumbh Mela, election rallies in various parts of India and other mass public gathers, despite reasonably forseeing the fatal consequences of the same.

"The Respondents herein have violated the spirit of Article 47 of the Constitution of India while showcasing sheer mis-governance and have failed to discharge their various statutory duties, particularly under Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 and the Disaster Management Act, 2005, while grossly violating the Right to Life and Personal Liberty of thousands of Indian Citizens, guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India".

The plea goes on to state that it is not adversarial in nature and is in essence a "Social Action Litigation".

"During these unprecedented times, this Hon'ble Court has acted as a guardian of the virtues of Human rights and has taken up numerous public interest issues by way of suo moto writ petitions, in order to mitigate and obviate the atrocities being faced by the public at large and the present issue in hand falls under the same domain, where thousands of citizens are rendered helpless and financially deprived due to the loss of the lives of earning family members due to COVID-19…"

It is submitted in the plea that Chapter V of the DM Act provides duties and obligations of the Centre and State to take necessary measures for the purpose of disaster management. However, the Respondents have failed to discharge the same and have violated Article 47 which states that a State must regard public health as one of its primary duties, in addition to raising the level of nutrition and standard of living of its people.

The plea underlines that the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare had foreseen the second wave and flagged the issue of inadequate oxygen supply along with government hospital beds, while asking the Centre to take immediate action in view of the same. The 123rd report of the Committee on this issue had been presented to the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha on November 21, 2020 and forwarded to the Lok Sabha Speaker four days letter.

Therefore, the plea submits that the Respondents had sufficient time for preparedness and capacity-building.

"However, despite the abovementioned 123rd report of the Committee on the outbreak of pandemic and its management, no substantial steps were taken to mitigate the impact of the forseeable second wave of COVID-19".

The plea also refers to news reports and tweets of Amit Malviya, the IT Chief of BJP, that vide a letter dated 7th April, the Centre had requested all States to grant permissions to manufacturers of industrial oxygen to manufacture medical oxygen. Further, the Centre had released funds to set up eight oxygen plans in Delhi in December 2020, but GNCTD had only set up 1, while spending the funds on advertisements, theredy leading to its acute shortage in hospitals.

Various suggestions and measures have also been enlisted in the plea such as directions to State Governments to set up requisite number of oxygen plans in a time-bound manner and stringent punishment of deterrent nature to be prescribed for those who permit/participate in/organize public mass gatherings of over 100 persons without prior permission of the District Collector.

The plea also suggests that the Centre and States should endeavor to ensure compulsory and free vaccination of all Indians. They should also jointly formulate and implement schemes to provide free education to children up to 21 years of age, especially those who have lost their families/parents to COVID-19.
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