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The Patna High Court yesterday urged the state to favourably consider appointing a Nodal Officer to combat issues arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic, as suggested by NITI Aayog.
The above order was passed in a PIL filed by Advocate Parul Prasad. The petitioner had made a prayer for the state government to follow NITI Aayog's guidelines for allowing civil society to work with the state administration in providing food and shelter to those adversely affected by the lockdown.
While passing the above order, a Division Bench of Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice S Kumar observed,
"...the role of Civil Society, be it in the form of individuals/ CSOs/NGOs, in helping the orphans; elderly persons; and specially challenged persons, cannot be undermined. Public and private participation, of the good Samaritans to overcome natural disasters and adversities is not alien to the culture and heritage of this great nation..."
Patna High Court
The Bench also pointed out the importance and significance of the Directives Principles of State Policy and the Fundamental Duties enumerated under the Constitution of India while dealing with issues surrounding the Coronavirus pandemic.
As regards appointing a Nodal Officer, the state government had told the Court that it had no obligation to comply with the instructions/advisories issued by the NITI Aayog. It was submitted that the state relied upon its own mechanism, adopted by way of Regulations passed over the last two months.
The Court suggested that the officer already appointed under the Bihar Epidemic Diseases COVID-19 Regulations, 2020 may be appointed as a Nodal Officer. However, the Court added that modalities in this regard are left open to be determined by the state government.
This apart, on the point of centralized monitoring of the problems faced during the lockdown and the relief provided/action taken, the Court opined that technology ought to be used for the same.
"Perhaps, a website, to be operated at the level of the Government of Bihar can be opened up where any member of the Society (organized or un-organized) wanting to help the Government or the citizenry, in whatever manner, be it in the form of material or human resources, can register their request and the same dealt with promptly by a duly authorized competent and a responsible officer."
The Court signed off with the hope that at least part of this order would be implemented by the state government by April 29. The matter will be taken up next on May 1.
Advocate Parul Prasad appeared as petitioner-in-person. Senior Advocate PN Shahi appeared for the state, while ASG SD Sanjay appeared for the Centre.
[Read the judgment here]