The Supreme Court on Friday said requests for coronavirus tests cannot be denied on technical grounds as it pulled up the Delhi government amid a spurt in cases in the national Capital, reported Live Law. “Government may consider simplifying the procedure so that more and more tests are done,” said the bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, Sanjay Kishan Kaul and MR Shah.
The court took suo motu cognisance of cases where proper treatment was not being meted out to Covid-19 patients and the bodies of people who had died were not being handled in a dignified manner. As of Friday morning, Delhi’s tally stood at 34,687, of which 1,085 people have died. However, there is a discrepancy in the number of fatalities, with the municipalities pegging the toll at over 2,000.
The bench also noted that apart from Delhi, the situation was grim in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. In a notice to these state governments, the court asked the respective chief secretaries to submit a detailed report on patient care. While Maharashtra is the worst-hit state in India, Tamil Nadu and Delhi are also among those with the maximum caseload. The court also asked the Centre to submit a response. The matter will be heard again on June 17.
India reported 10,956 new coronavirus cases and 396 deaths in 24 hours on Friday morning. This is the highest single-day increase so far. With this, the tally rose to 2,97,535 cases and the toll from the disease stood at 8,498. India is now the fourth most-affected country in the world as it has overtaken the United Kingdom, which has 2.92 lakh cases.
The court questioned the low testing numbers when coronavirus cases are increasing daily in Delhi. “Increase is now 10,000 per day,” it pointed out. “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.” The court pointed out that while Mumbai was testing 16,000 to 17,000 people a day, Delhi’s testing number was below 7,000. “Things have gone bad in Delhi,” said Justice Kaul.
The court said that many beds in government hospitals were lying vacant. “Media reports have shown pathetic condition of patients, which has pained this court,” it added. Citing an India TV report, the court said: “The reports indicate that patients who are suffering from coronavirus are running pillar to post to get admission in hospital whereas various beds in government.”
The top court also cited media reports to highlight the “deplorable condition” in which bodies were being handled. “Solicitor general has shown government directives issued on March 15 tackles the handling of dead bodies,” the court said. “But no one is following the directives. Relatives are not being informed of the death.” The bench said there have been instances in some states, where bodies were found in garbage bins. “They are being treated worse than animals,” said the judges.
The court took up the matter after news reports said a 60-year-old man from Delhi had died after he failed to get a bed in any hospital, reported Bar and Bench. Lakhjeet Singh’s daughter, Amarpreet, went on Twitter to break the news. “The government failed us,” she wrote.” There have also been reports suggesting that bodies in Mumbai were being piled up in wards and corridors of public hospitals and morgues. There have also been instances of coronavirus patients who were considered missing turning up dead.
This is the second suo motu petition taken up by the top court concerning the Covid-19 crisis. Earlier, the court had taken up the difficulties faced by the migrants who were left jobless by the nationwide lockdown.