[COVID-19] Karnataka HC asks State to frame guidelines to ensure dignity of the dead, wages for sanitation workers

The Bench further noted that the State had not yet formed a committee of experts in accordance with the Supreme Court directions.
Karnataka High Court
Karnataka High Court

Referring to the handling of bodies of deceased COVID-19 patients in the state, the Karnataka High Court on Monday observed that the state government and civic body Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) are bound to come out with guidelines to ensure dignity of the dead.

To this end, the Court asked the state government to ensure that dead bodies are given a proper burial/cremation. This direction was passed by the Court after taking into account the pitiable course of action adopted in handling bodies of COVID-19 patients in the State.

The Division Bench of Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Aravind Kumar also passed a number of directions regarding insurance and wages for sanitation workers in the state.

The directions passed include:

  • State to issue proper and fresh guidelines with an emphasis on the dignity of dead persons.

  • State to ensure that the centralized ambulance system is in place immediately.

  • No machinery in place to ensure that private hospitals follow the directions issued by the Court and do not refuse admission to patients. The State must ensure that such machinery is in place to monitor the activities of private hospitals.

  • The death certificate clause mentioned in the BBMP guidelines needs to be revisited, as there is no requirement for COVID-19 status to be mentioned if it is a case of natural death.

  • State to place on record insurance scheme (Garib Kalyan Package Insurance Scheme). The beneficiaries of the scheme must be informed of the scheme so that they may avail it.

  • State to clarify whether the insurance scheme would apply to pourakarmikas and cleaning staff in hospitals and other government institutions (to clarify all categories of workers covered under the scheme).

  • State to clarify whether relatives of deceased workers who fall within the scope of the scheme can claim benefit of the scheme at this stage.

  • State to ensure that wages of all pourakarmikas (sanitation workers), especially in non-BBMP areas, are paid punctually and without delay. They should also be extended benefits such as mandatory testing, providing of PPE kits, temperature testing, etc, which are provided to workers in BBMP limits.

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During the hearing, the Bench further noted that the State had not yet formed a committee of experts in accordance with the Supreme Court directions.

In this regard, the Court said that the failure on the part of the State to do so is contemptuous, and affects the fight against COVID-19.

"This is not only contemptuous but also disastrous", the Court remarked.

The circular issued by the State on July 24, reconstituting the medical experts committee, is not in accordance with the Supreme Court directions as it does not have eminent experts from the society, the Court noted. On this issue, the Court noted that the failure of the government to comply with the directions will have to be viewed very seriously.

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 Court will next hear the matter on July 30.

Bar and Bench - Indian Legal news