Bombay High Court
Bombay High Court
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[COVID-19] Court will not spare anyone if lapses found: Bombay HC warns of surprise inspections at Aurangabad hospitals, quarantine centres

"If it is found that persons who are expected to discharge the duty are not present on the spot, this Court will be giving directions specifically to register a crime against those persons immediately", the Court said.

Meera Emmanuel

In an extraordinary move, the Bombay High Court has intimated that it may take it upon itself to carry out inspections at the hospitals and quarantine centres of Aurangabad to check if persons in charge are being negligent in their duties to contain the spread of COVID-19 (The Registrar (Judicial), High Court of Bombay v. UOI and ors).

In an order passed last Friday, the Bench of Justices TV Nalawade and SD Kulkarni said,

"... this Court may visit the sites to see that there is discipline in the staff employed in the aforesaid work and they are discharging their duties seriously and there are no lapses whatsoever and the visit will be paid as surprise visit to the hospitals, to the quarantine institutions and even to the isolation wards and the containment zones. This Court is making it clear that if it is found that the persons who are expected to discharge the duty are not present on the spot and due to that the spread of virus is going on, this Court will be giving directions specifically in respect of those persons to register the crime against those persons immediately and those persons may be of any rank."

The Bench added a word of warning against anyone who is found negligent in performing their duties.

"This Court will not be sparing anyone if such lapses are found."
the High Court said.

On June 26, the Court had taken cognizance of reports over the dissatisfaction expressed when it came to COVID-19 management at Aurangabad.

The Bench noted that a large factor for such a state of affairs had to do with the negligence of persons tasked with COVID-19 duties and the inability of the administration to implement COVID-19 management guidelines at the ground level.

In its June 26 order, the Bench had observed,

"Unfortunately, we have developed such work culture that there is huge negligence and inaction. Considering the danger that virus has created, it is not sufcient to only issue orders, but the authority or the officers created under the Act need to see that the directions given are followed and the guidelines are implemented at the ground root level. It can be said that in our country only poor and middle class persons are suferers and they sufer when there is such calamity. They have no other alternative than to go to public institutions for treatment, help and protection. This circumstance needs to be kept in mind by these officers. "

The Court had proceeded to issue certain directions to enable the concerned administrative authorities to act more efficiently against persons who are refusing or avoiding to discharge their duties assigned to them. These directions included the following:

  • The Court is to be informed about employees who stopped attending the duty in public hospitals and also in other public offices when they were expected to work for the prevention of the spread of the virus.

  • A report is to be submitted on the action taken against the employees who did not turn up to discharge the duty. Proper action, including the the registration of a crime is taken against such employees, are to be taken.

  • The Court is to be informed about the action taken against the private laboratories and private hospitals and others who did not report the cases of infections due to this virus and the deaths caused due to the same.

  • The Court is to be informed about the action taken against the private hospitals who have refused the admissions not only to COVID-19 patients,, but also to the other patients by giving lame excuses. Criminal action can be taken against them.

  • The Court is to be apprised about the action taken for negligence shown by the persons involved in this work in discharge of the duty. Criminal action should be taken against them.

  • Records in respect of contact tracing are to be preserved. The Court was also to be apprised whether the teams/squads created for contact tracing have honestly worked and if they have collected necessary information.

  • Facilities like CCTV cameras are to be created at the institutions where persons are kept in quarantine and also at the centres where the persons are kept in isolation so that it can be ascertained as to whether proper attention is paid to them and proper treatment is given to them. Information pertaining to the same is to be submitted to the Court so that action may be taken against persons found negligent.

On June 26, the Court had also appointed Senior Counsel Rajendra Deshmukh as the amicus curiae in the matter.

When the case came up subsequently on July 3, the Bench was disappointed to note that acts of negligence were still being reported despite the directions issued by the Court earlier. The Court remarked that such negligent persons need to be suspended immediately.

It added, "if they are appointed on a contract basis, contract need to be terminated and criminal action needs to be taken against them. Invariably against every such person such action needs to be taken and things can be corrected only by taking such action."

After warning that Court inspections may be carried out to weed out negligent workers, the Bench proceeded to adjourn the matter to July 7, Tuesday.

The Court also allowed amicus curiae, Rajendra Deshmukh, to produce a compilation of news items concerning the negligence of those assigned COVID-19 management duties.

Read the Orders:

The Registrar (Judicial)v. UOI and ors - June 26 order.pdf
The Registrar (Judicial) v. UOI and ors - July 3 order.pdf
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