High Court cautions govt. over handling COVID-19 situation
Expressing concern over the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in the State, the High Court of Karnataka on Thursday orally cautioned the State government that it may be constrained to observe that the “State’s official machinery has been broken down” resulting in the situation moving towards worst from being best earlier.
The court termed as “like shedding crocodile tears” the manner in which the State government set up a team of doctors to inspect and supervise COVID-19 hospitals with a delay of 45 days after the apex court’s June 19 order to all the States and after the High Court cautioned it about non-constitution of the team.
The court also cautioned that it may have to appoint an independent team of experts to inspect and supervise COVID-19 health facilities if the State government failed to take corrective steps to enforce the apex court’s order in its “true letter and spirit”.
A Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice M.I. Arun, hearing PIL petitions on issues related to COVID-19 management, said it hopes that the government takes immediate steps to set up an expert team and takes all steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The Bench noted that the team set up by the State government comprised of only doctors and no other experts are part of it despite the apex court’s direction. Though the government included an NGO in the Bengaluru city and district-level teams, the Bench pointed out that it did not name the NGO whose presence would have given valid inputs to the government to address issues on COVID-19 management.
Also, the Bench orally pointed out that though the bureaucrats were working to contain the spread of COVID-19, there appears to be lapse at certain levels, particularly in the lower levels of monitoring.
A few eminent persons, the Bench said, should be made part of the team of experts, who can report about the lapses and shortcomings directly to the State’s top executives such as the Chief Minister, who can then act on their advise.
Meanwhile, in response to a court’s query made during the last hearing, the State authorities clarified to the Bench that no stigma would be attached to the family of any person who has died either of COVID-19 or because of co-morbidities after contracting COVID-19 as the law does not permit mentioning the cause of death of any person in the death certificate.
Family can view dead body
Acting on the observations made by the High Court on July 27, the State government on July 29 issued revised “guideline on dead body management in the context of COVID-19 pandemic” by allowing family members to view the body both in isolation rooms/area and at mortuary without touching it and adhering to other the standard operating procedure.
Also, the revised guideline states that the dignity of the dead, their culture and religious traditions, and their families should be respected and protected throughout, and hasty disposal of the body of a COVID-19 victim should be strictly avoided.
“The district authorities and the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike should manage every situation on a case-to-case basis, balancing the rights of the family, the need to investigate the cause of death, and the risks of exposure to infection,” the revised guideline states.