‘We failed, went by govt’s false assurances’: Patna high court on Covid crisis
The Pata high court on Tuesday upbraided the Bihar government for its handling of the Covid crisis but did not pass any order after being told mid-way through the hearing that the state government has announced a lockdown till 15 May.
“At least one order has been complied with,” the bench of Justices Chakradhari Sharan Singh and Mohit Kumar Shah observed after the state’s advocate general Lalit Kishore informed the judges about the government’s decision.
The judges, however, made it clear that they would pass “appropriate orders” on Thursday. “The court will fail in its duty if necessary orders are not passed in the larger public interest to ensure the right of life to the people in the state,” the bench said as it wrapped up Tuesday’s hearing.
The bench said it wasn’t issuing any directions today though the state government had failed to implement its previous directions and their implementation “remained on paper”.
Like at the previous hearings, the bench was upset with the state government for not doing enough when the hearing started at 11 am on Tuesday and observed that the court could not go on waiting and put the lives of people at risk.
“We have all failed. All of us feel ashamed for what we have done. Don’t make a joke of the proceedings. We cannot wait. We cannot play with the lives of the people, you may. It is an observation on us also that we have failed. This has happened only because we depended on the state officials and false assurances given by state officials,” the bench observed.
When Bihar’s top law officer Lalit Kishore claimed the state government had taken effective steps, the bench promptly told him that he should not make a joke of the proceedings.
When he referred to the state’s Rajendra Nagar Eye Hospital where 150 beds had been marked for Covid patients, the bench brushed it away saying this was nothing and reminded the state about its assurances.
“You had spoken about 1,000 beds at the IGIMS (Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences) and 500 beds at the ESIC (Employees’ State Insurance) hospital, but it could not start. PMCH (Patna Medical College and Hospital) is in shambles, NMCH (Nalanda Medical College & Hospital) is struggling,” the bench said.
“The orders we have passed from the first date when we first took the matter on April 15 speak for themselves. In our opinion, certain drastic measures need to be taken to tackle the situation in the state, which has already gone beyond control”.
“According to you, the government has taken effective steps, but it has failed and therefore we have to pass orders. The fact remains that you could not manage beds in ICU,” the court said, asking what happened to the PSA plant (pressure swing absorption plant for oxygen) at PMCH and why it was not functional despite statements made earlier to the court.
The court also raised doubts about the functioning of dedicated Covid health centres, saying most beds are vacant and there were no facilities there. The court also asked additional solicitor general KN Singh to seek instructions from the Centre in light of today’s proceedings and told Bihar to file a detailed affidavit on the progress made by the Bihar government in fighting the Covid crisis.