Karnataka HC
Karnataka HC
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"State seems to be shedding crocodile tears": Karnataka HC on failure to constitute expert committee as per SC guidelines

The Bench noted that there was a lapse of one and a half months on the part of the state government in complying with the Supreme Court order.

Rintu Mariam Biju

Observing that it was "shedding crocodile tears", the Karnataka High Court today pulled up the state government for not properly complying with the Supreme Court directions with respect to constituting an expert committee of doctors to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

In its order, a Division Bench of Justices Aravind Kumar and MI Arun noted that the expert committee that formed by the state government was not in consonance with the Supreme Court directions. The Bench observed,

"At the State level, experts from other fields haven't been inducted to the committee. Committee constituted at the District level also does not indicate the representative of an NGO or eminent personality whose presence would have been a value addition to the said committee. This could only indicate that the State seems to be shedding crocodile tears. We do hope that that they will wake up from their slumber and take immediate correct steps to comply with the order of the Hon'ble Apex Court in its letter and spirirt which would contain the spread of COVID-19."

The Bench also noted that there was a lapse of one and a half months on the part of the state government in complying with the Supreme Court order.

In this regard, the Court further reiterated that proper and immediate steps will have to be taken for appointing an independent committee of experts for inspection, supervision, and providing guidance to hospitals.

On the point of proper disposal of COVID-19 dead bodies, the Bench proceeded to allow family members to view the deceased. However, they cannot kiss or touch the body, the Court clarified.

Additional Advocate General Dhyan Chinnappa, appearing for the state government, had informed the Bench that the families of persons who succumbed to COVID-19 may view the body at the mortuary and when the body is being taken out from the isolation wards, subject to complying with standard precautions including hand hygiene.

With this, the AAG Chinnappa also stated that there is no conclusive proof pertaining to how long the virus is active in a dead body.

During the hearing, petitioner Advocate Venkatesh Dalwai contended that even for persons who died due to COVID-19, normal death certificate should be issued along with medical certificate. Only the medical certificate should carry the cause of death and this in turn would prevent unwanted stigma, Dalwai added.

These directions were passed by the Bench in two letter petitions and related matters underlining the lack of medical facilities for COVID-19 patients in hospitals.

The matter has been adjourned to August 4.

During the hearing, the Bench also hinted that two judges of the High Court have tested positive for COVID-19, and that they have been quarantined.

Previously, the Karnataka High Court had observed that the state government and civic body BBMP are bound to come out with guidelines to ensure dignity of the dead.

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