The Telangana High Court on Tuesday pulled up the State Government for the abysmally low testing rate of the deadly Coronavirus infection in the state of Telangana.
A bench of Chief Justice Raghavendra Singh Chauhan & Justice Vijaysen Reddy directed the State Government to continually test people for covid19 and increase the number of tests throughout the state as far as practicable.
"To ignore the presence of coronavirus by not testing large number of population is inviting the Trojan Horse into our citadel. Therefore, this court directs the state to not only continue to test but to increase the number of tests throughout the state as far as practicable and as far as financially feasible"
The Court passed the 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.
Bench pointed out that the numbers of Coronavirus positive patients were less in the State only because of low testing rates. In this backdrop, the bench questioned the inadequate testing numbers, even though the Centre had insisted the State & its concerned authorities to conduct more tests multiple times.
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"
Further, the 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.
The court also directed the Government regarding information of methods used at railway stations where trains are coming in from across the country with migrant workers.
"This court would like to know the number of those persons who are or were in contact with a confirmed case whether such persons were once between fifth and tenth of coming into contact as prescribed by guidelines dated 18.05.2020 or not? The Government is also directed to inform this Court with regard to the number of migrant workers who have entered the state so far and whether they have been tested while entering the state?"
Court noted that the affidavit was vague and contradictory in respect of data on record pertaining to testings being carried out by the State in the population as well as comprehensive testings done and quarantine measures taken for migrant workers.
"The affidavit is absolutely silent as to the total number of migrants who have been screened at the state borders so far. It is silent as to the period for which the asymptomatic patients have been home quarantined. It is silent about he 118 migrants who were found positive for covid19 with regard to their quarantine, treatment and cure."
Additionally, bench directed the State Government to also bring on record a detailed status report encompassing the stock as well as distribution of PPE kits that have been distributed till date.
The State Government on May 26 had brought on record a counter affidavit after the Court had directed the State Government to file an updated status report encompassing the strategy for purposes of conducting Coronavirus tests on dead bodies on May 14. Court had slammed the Government for filing a "vague" and "incomplete" report.
Notably, this order was passed after a previous May 12 order directing the same.
Taking note of the status report filed by the State Government, Bench observed that the report was vague and lacked comprehensive data to ascertain the action being taken by the State Government during the subsisting Coronavirus pandemic.
While highlighting that other states such as Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra & Tamil Nadu were doing testings in large number, Court observed that the State of Telangana must also conduct large scale testing of COVID19 including tests on dead bodies as well as their primary and secondary contacts.
Other issues highlighted in the PILs included challenge of inaction by concerned authorities for conducting Covid19 tests on dead bodies as well notifying specified Covid19 bedded hospitals other than, in the area of Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC), filed on behalf of Prof. P.L. Vishweswar Rao (Petitioner's Counsel, Advocate Chikkudu Prabhakar)
On May 14, Petitioner's counsel, Advocate Chikkudu Prabhakar pointed out the outright lack of strategy viz. conducting Covid19 tests on dead bodies without paying head to the ICMR notifications of March 24 & April 13 in the said status report.
Prabhakar further informed the court that it is requisite upon the government to have a person tested, traced, isolated or treated for the disease as per guidelines of the WHO.
While highlighting the innate need to test people who have died for Covid19 samples, Advocate Prabhakar further presented before the court the recent cases of doctors in Nellore and Kurnool of Andhra Pradesh, who were tested positive after their death. Accordingly, while emphasising on the need for strategising dead-body samples, he also pointed out the lack of Covid19 testing in Italy & USA which led to a surge in Covid19 positive cases and deaths.
The court, 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.
The PIL filed by Professor Vishweshwar Rao inter alia has 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.
Furthermore, the plea stated that this inaction of providing "trained staff, medical equipments and medicines as illegal arbitrary, discriminatory, unreasonable, unfair, unjust, unlawful, unconstitutional, whimsical, perverse, mockery, inhumane, bad in law, rid with ulterior motive and against Article 14, 19 & 21."
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