The Delhi High Court on Thursday heavily criticised the Aam Aadmi Party-led government for not imposing timely restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus in the city, asking why it took the administration 18 days to “shake out of their slumber” and revise the limit on wedding guests from 200 to 50, reported PTI.
“You [Delhi government] saw from November 1 which way the wind was blowing,” a bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Subramonium Prasad said, while hearing a plea seeking ramping up of testing facilities in the Capital. “But you turn turtle now because we asked you some questions.”
Delhi has seen a spike in recent weeks, recording more new cases than any other state. The rising numbers coincide with a busy festival season and an alarming rise in air pollution.
On Wednesday, the city registered 131 coronavirus deaths – its highest one-day count so far. The Capital’s tally rose to 5,03,084 with 7,486 new cases in 24 hours. The government has started to reinstate restrictions, starting with revising the limit on wedding guests from 200, which was imposed from November 1, to 50. The administration may also shut markets which could be potential infection hotspots.
During the hearing on Thursday, the High Court asked the government why it did not act immediately when they saw the situation was deteriorating. “The bell should have rung loud and clear when the numbers were spiralling,” the bench said. “Why did we have to shake you out of your slumber on November 11?”
The court said the Delhi government has been “incorrectly saying in the press that the third wave has peaked, while the numbers suggest otherwise”, according to Live Law. It also questioned why were the restrictions on the movement of people relaxed at “such a critical situation, especially when festival season was in full swing and under the prevailing poor air quality”.
The bench wondered if the Delhi government could explain to the citizens who lost their “near and dear ones” why their administration waited 18 days, till November 18, to begin imposing necessary restrictions. “Do you know how many lives were lost during this period?” the High Court asked.
The judges also deplored the government’s ill-preparedness in terms of healthcare infrastructure, which has been overburdened with the recent bout of cases. “It’s disheartening to know that the number of deaths have climbed up,” the bench said. “Looking at the spread of the infection, there’s bound to be pressure on the health facilities of Delhi.”
The court asked the Delhi government to file a status report indicating the steps taken to increase the number of intensive care unit beds.
It also directed authorities to indicate the steps taken to ensure adequate facilities at all crematoriums. “Burial grounds are overflowing, funeral pyres are burning through the night,” the court noted. “Are you aware of that?”
On implementation of physical distancing norms, prevention of spitting and wearing of masks, the court said it was not satisfied with the monitoring being done by the Delhi government in some districts where Covid-19 cases were high. The bench also said the fines being imposed – Rs 500 for first violation and Rs 1,000 for every subsequent violation – did not appear to be a deterrent.
“What kind of monitoring and marshalling are you doing?” it asked. “Look at the situation seriously with a magnifying glass. You have crossed cities like New York and Sao Paulo.”
Hours after the hearing, the Arvind Kejriwal government raised the fine for not wearing masks in public spaces from Rs 500 to Rs 2,000, NDTV reported.