Uttarakhand High Court questions Govt on surge in cases due to religious gatherings

Lekha G

The Uttarakhand High Court questioned the State Government regarding the performance of religious events despite a surge in coronavirus cases and suspected its preparedness to deal with the pandemic.

A Bench of Chief Justice R S Chauhan and Justice Alok Kumar Verma while hearing a PIL on the Government’s handling of the pandemic said that, “We cannot behave like the proverbial ostrich and bury our head in sand in the face of the pandemic”.

The Court questioned whether the rise in cases in Kumaon were a result of Purnagiri Mela while the state still stumbled under the effect of the Kumbh Mela. It further raised concern on the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) issued for the Chardham Yatra.

The Court directed the State Government to pool all its resources to fight the pandemic said, “We are fighting a world war with an invisible enemy and must put in all the resources. Under Article 21 of the Constitution, it is the foremost duty of the state to preserve the life of its citizens. The government must pour every drop into it”.

The Health Secretary Amit Negi had filed a report on strengthening medical facilities and submitted that 1,338 ICU beds and 892 ventilators were available, oxygen concentrators had been increased from 637 to 5,700 and the Centre had allotted 75,000 Remdesivir injections to Uttarakhand. 

The High Court based on such a report put forth that the preparations were not enough to contain the second wave and the Government along with the people must fight together to overcome the predicted third wave. “The Government by making necessary SOP’s and infrastructure, the people by following guidelines”, it added.

The Court directed the Government to increase the testing labs, especially in epicentres such as Haridwar and place mobile testing vans in remote areas.

The Court also asked to take stringent action against private hospitals charging excessive fees from Covid patients and that those involved in black-marketing, hoarding and selling fake medicines be punished under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act.  

The Court further stated that the SOP’s must also be put in place to deal with the increasing biomedical waste due to pandemic, the court further added.

The Bench also pointed out that the Government could skip the process of inviting tenders under the Disaster Management Act to speed up the process.

The Court directed the Government to file a supplementary affidavit explicitly addressing its queries and requested the Health Secretary to be present on May 20 for the next hearing.

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