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The Supreme Court today asked the Delhi Government to submit a "better affidavit" on the actual COVID-19 situation in the NCR while taking critical note that its affidavit showed that "everything is excellent in Delhi" (In Re The Proper Treatment of COVID19 Patients and Dignified Handling of Dead Bodies in the Hospitals etc).
A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, SK Kaul and MR Shah took up the matter today.
Appearing for Delhi, ASG Sanjay Jain told the Court that it is not as if the Government is trying to project as if "everything is hunky-dory." Rather, he submitted, "We are increasing testing. We are taking remedial steps."
The Court, however, responded,
The judges on the Bench proceeded to opine that the Government has to file a better affidavit on the issue.
"You cannot try to suppress numbers. You cannot shoot the messenger which is what you are doing... You are sending a wrong signal", Justice Ashok Bhusan said.
"You don't want proof to come out", Justice MR Shah remarked.
Whereas ASG Jain submitted that help desks are now being set up in hospitals, the Court pointed out, "An IAS officer cannot supervise the hospital. Who is manning these health desks? Some other body has to look into this and take steps."
ASG Jain responded that a high powered committee has now been set up to oversee this matter, following a meeting between Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and the Home Minister.
Justice Shah, however, took note that, "In some hospitals, patients are being discharged after 4 or 10 days without testing asymptomatic people. Happening in Ahmedabad civil hospital too."
ASG Sanjay Jain was ultimately directed to file a "better affidavit" on behalf of Delhi, before posting the matter for the day after tomorrow. The Court also intimated that it would peruse the Centre's affidavit on the issue in the meanwhile.
"Withdraw shooting of messenger and take remedial steps of the behavior towards doctors", the Court has advised.
On June 12, the three-judge bench had issued notice to the Centre and state governments of Delhi, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Maharashtra in the suo motu case on proper treatment of COVID-19 patients and disposal of bodies of persons who have succumbed to the virus.
The Court had taken note of an India TV news report aired on June 10, wherein the deplorable condition of medical wards in Delhi was shown. Dead bodies were found in the ward, lobby and waiting area, patients had no oxygen support, and no saline drips were shown with the bed, the Court had noted, citing the report.
A separate notice was issued to LNJP Hospital in Delhi too with regard to the detoriating conditions of treatment.
Justice Bhushan, after taking cognisance of the issue, had stated that people who request a COVID-19 test cannot be denied the same on technical grounds. He also called for simplifying the procedure, so that more tests could be performed.
On the issue of disposal of dead bodies, the Court had pointed out that the Centre had issued directives on March 15.
"But no one is following the directives. Relatives are not being informed of the death", it was observed.
The three-judge bench had also taken note of reports stating that morgues were facing disappearance of bodies, that relatives were reluctant to claim bodies, that the disposal of dead bodies were being carried out without the family's consent, and of long queues at cemeteries.