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Delhi HC issues notice in challenge to Delhi Govt decision to exclude testing of asymptomatic contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases

Aditi Singh

The Delhi High Court today issued notice in petitions challenging the Delhi Government's decision to exclude asymptomatic direct contacts of confirmed cases from COVID-19 testing.

Noitce to the Delhi Government was issued by a Division Bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan in petitions preferred by Dr KK Aggarwal and Renu Goswami.

Delhi Govt order on 'Strategy for COVID-19 testing"
Delhi Govt order on 'Strategy for COVID-19 testing"

In his petition before the Court, Dr KK Aggarwal, who is a Padma Shree Awardee and President of Heart Care Foundation of India (HCFI), has contended that the Delhi Government's decision to not allow asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic patients to undertake COVID-19 testing struck at the constitutional protection under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

As "silent spreaders", asymptomatic carriers warrant attention as part of disease prevention and control. The testing and follow-up of asymptomatic carriers should be expanded to include people in close contact with patients with confirmed COVID-19 and asymptomatic cases, clusters of outbreaks, and key areas and populations with a high risk of infection.
the Petition reads.

In the petition filed through Advocate Ira Gupta, Aggarwal has stated that it is the obligation or duty of the State under Article 47 of the Constitution of India to prevent the spread of the virus.

Additionally, Petitioner Renu Goswami, a 77-year-old senior citizen, has argued that the policy was in direct contravention of the Indian Council for Medical Research testing guidelines which mandated testing of “Asymptomatic direct and high-risk contacts of a confirmed case”.

In her petition filed through Advocate Shubhangi Jain, Goswami has apprehended that positive, yet asymptomatic primary contacts, if left untested would unknowingly end up infecting senior citizens, and those with co-morbidities (the high-risk cases), and others.

Further, these asymptomatic cases might become symptomatic later and, by reason of exclusion from testing, would be denied their right to timely treatment, it is asserted.

The Court has sought Delhi Government's response to the Petitions.

The matter would be heard next on June 22.

Renu Goswami was represented by Senior Advocate Siddharth Luthra with Advocate Ketki Goswami.

Three more petitions on the issue are yet to be taken up by the Court.

Petition preferred by 2-year old Kairav Nayar asserts that disallowing testing of asymptomatic cases was in complete deviation of the testing criteria issued by ICMR, expert opinion, ground realities and the extent off spread of the disease.

Filed through Advocates Arjun Syal, Manjira Dasgupta and Vidhisha Kumar, the Petition claims that the decision was taken with a mala fide motive to “reduce” the number of daily positive patients.

Petitioner-in-person, Advocate Abhay Gupta has also asserted that the testing only symptomatic persons during a nationwide pandemic was ultra-vires the Constitution of India.

Petitioner Dr. Manni Hingorani, who is an ENT Surgeon registered with the Delhi Medical Council, has argued that due to the policy, she was unable to get her asymptomatic patients tested for COVID-19 before surgery.

The policy has the effect of putting unreasonable restrictions upon the right of Petitioner Hingorani to carry out her professional duties as a surgeon, the Petition filed through Advocate Aman Hingorani states.

These petitions will come for hearing on June 9.

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