'State has failed’: Sombre note in Delhi high court hearing after petitioner dies of Covid-19 | Latest News Delhi - Hindustan Times
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'State has failed’: Sombre note in Delhi high court hearing after petitioner dies of Covid-19

ByRicha Banka, New Delhi
May 01, 2021 03:44 AM IST

“The State has failed in its fundamental obligation to protect the basic fundamental right -- i.e, the right to life as contained under Article 21,” a bench of justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli told the teary relatives of the petitioner.

“The State has failed us,” the Delhi high court observed on Friday, after it was informed in the middle of a hearing that a petitioner, who sought the court’s help three days ago to secure an intensive care unit (ICU) bed, had succumbed to Covid-19.

Relatives of a person who died due to Covid-19 reacting during their last rites at Sarai Kale Khan cremation, in New Delhi, India, on Monday, April 26, 2021. (Photo by Amal KS / Hindustan Times)
Relatives of a person who died due to Covid-19 reacting during their last rites at Sarai Kale Khan cremation, in New Delhi, India, on Monday, April 26, 2021. (Photo by Amal KS / Hindustan Times)

“The State has failed in its fundamental obligation to protect the basic fundamental right -- i.e, the right to life as contained under Article 21,” a bench of justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli told the teary relatives of the petitioner.

The petitioner, Atul Kumar Sharma, was admitted in Maharaja Agrasen Hospital’s casualty wing, and approached the high court on Tuesday to direct the state authorities to allocate him an ICU bed. The hospital told the court that it was taking care of the patient but had no ICU beds free.

The high court had said it couldn’t consider an individual case but appealed to all hospitals and authorities to make arrangements. On Friday, when the bench was again appealing to counsels to consider the petitioner’s case, advocate Amit Sharma told the court that his brother-in-law Atul had expired. He burst into tears and said, “I have failed…”

The bench stopped him. “No Mr Sharma, you have not failed. The State has failed.” Silence descended among the judges, counsels and over 150 participants who had joined the video conferencing hearing.

The emotional exchange capped an eventful day in court where senior lawyers broke down and pleaded for help, the state government counsel expressed helplessness, and judges said it was getting tough for them.

“It is the complete failure of the State that everything including hospital beds and medical oxygen is in short supply. It is a war and not a battle,” the court remarked earlier in the day after Bar Council of Delhi (BCD) chairman Ramesh Gupta, broke down while mourning his colleagues who died of Covid-19.

Gupta, who was appearing in a petition seeking medical facilities for lawyers, submitted that a private hospital agreed to treat the lawyers but didn’t have ICU beds. “We want my lords to come to our rescue. We do not want to criticise anyone or any government. We have 4-5 crore in our funds and will arrange more from lawyers. We only want my lords to help us. Sir kuch karo aap (Sir please do something).”

Delhi government’s standing counsel Santosh Kumar Tripathi also became emotional while informing the court about a colleague’s demise.”Daily we are losing our dear ones,” he said.

The court empathised. “We understand your pain. We are going through the same. This surge of Covid has such a huge number...nobody could have imagined that this will attack us in this way... Finances are not the issue here. The problem is infrastructure….The problem is we don’t have doctors, nurses, attendants, oxygen and medicines. It is a complete failure of the state,” the bench said.

“It’s getting tougher for us,” the bench said.

The court criticised the “hotchpotch situation” in Delhi and compared it to the way Mumbai was handling its infection load.

“In Bombay what the municipal corporation has done is, you’re asked to register if you have Covid, and then they go door-to-door with bed and facilities. But we cannot do that in Delhi. It’s too late to devise a system now. Its complete hotchpotch. Central government… Delhi government….municipal corporations not one but three…Politically different parties.. Complete hotchpotch,” the bench remarked.

The court directed authorities to immediately release 170 oxygen concentrators seized by Delhi Police from the black market . It also recalled an order passed earlier this week, where it had directed the Delhi government to take over a refiller plant. Senior advocate Rahul Mehra, representing the Delhi government, said supplies were being affected due to this and several stakeholders asked him to bring back the vendor.

During the proceedings, advocate Himanshu Dagar, representing Gandhi Nursing Home, told the court that 95 people were on the death bed because the hospital didn’t receive a single oxygen cylinder in the last 48 hours. He said that the hospital suffered two deaths on Thursday and had no oxygen cylinders at present.

“We are at the complete mercy of God,” he said. To this, Mehra expressed helplessness and said that problems still existed in the supply system despite allocations being made.

The court directed the Delhi government to sort out the issue and also issued notice to the two refillers assigned to the hospital. It asked the government to explain why the supply wasn’t done.

The bench asked the Delhi government to look into the possibility of converting SUVs into ambulances and whether buses could be used for carrying oxygen cylinders instead of ambulances.

It also asked the administration to look into scaling up Rapid Antigen Test in addition to RT-PCR tests through mobile vans for hospital staffs and using hotels for health workers so that their family members are not infected.

The matter will be now heard on Saturday.

The court was hearing a plea by lawyer-petitioner Rakesh Malhotra, who along with several hospitals, had sought directions to the Centre and the Delhi government for better facilities and continuous supply of oxygen in the hospitals and nursing homes of the Capital.

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