SC issues notice in Suo Motu case on COVID-19 treatment and disposal of bodies; takes note of "deplorable" conditions, decreased testing
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SC issues notice in Suo Motu case on COVID-19 treatment and disposal of bodies; takes note of "deplorable" conditions, decreased testing

Debayan Roy

The Supreme Court today issued notice to the Centre and five state governments 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 matter was heard by a Bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, Sanjay Kishan Kaul and MR Shah.

At the outset, the Court noted that there was a decrease in COVID-19 testing in the capital.

"We are more concerned with living than dead. Look at the condition of hospitals. Bodies are there in the wards. Mumbai is testing 16,000 to 17,000, whereas in Delhi it is falling below 7,000. Media has highlighted this issue."

Justice Bhushan observed that in some states, bodies were found in garbage bins.

"They are being treated worse than animals!"

Justice Ashok Bhushan

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta pointed out that "dead bodies are sleeping with living patients", and cited instances where bodies have been dragged with rope.

At this point, Justice Shah asked,

"So what have you done (about the situation)?"

The Court 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 noted, citing the report.

"This was the condition of LNJP Hospital which has been turned into a COVID hospital by the government. This is a 200 bed hospital."

The Bench went on to say that it was the state's duty to ensure that testing increases.

"COVID-19 cases are increasing everyday in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Ahmedabad. Increase is now 10,000 per day. Then how can tests go down? Non-testing is not the solution. Increase of tests is a duty of the state so that people can know their status."

Bhushan J went on to state 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 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."

The Court thus issued notice to the Central government as well as the governments of NCT Delhi, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu. It ordered,

"Let the notice be issued today itself and reply be filed under the signature of Chief Secretary of the cocnerned state or secretary of state health department."

The matter is listed for June 17.

The Supreme Court had decided to take up the matter suo motu after taking note of news reports suggesting that a 60-year-old COVID-19 positive man from Delhi died after he failed to get a bed in any hospital.

Reports also stated that morgues were facing disappearance of bodies, relatives reluctant to claim bodies, disposal without family's consent, and long queues at crematoria or cemeteries.

[READ ORDER]

Suo Motu Order.pdf
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