Coronavirus patients being treated worse than animals: Supreme Court
The treatment meted to coronavirus patients in some states was deplorable and worse than animals, the Supreme Court said today. Though the bench, including Justices MR Shah, SK Kaul, and Ashok Bhushan fumed at several states, it was particularly angry with Delhi over its handling of dead bodies and the decline in testing. The matter will now be heard next week.
The bench took suo motu cognizance of the matter. Calling the condition in Delhi, which is on the way of becoming India's coronavirus hotspot, "horrendous", the bench asked, "Why has your testing gone down from 7,000 to 5,000 a day when Chennai and Mumbai have increased their testing from 16,000 to 17,000?" Delhi was testing more in May than in June, the court noted.
"COVID-19 cases are increasing every day in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, and Ahmedabad. The increase is now 10,000/day. Then how can tests go down? Non-testing is not the solution," the court said, adding that it's the governments' duty to test more and reveal statuses.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta who volunteered to provide assistance to the hearing told that Article 21 gives the right to a "decent departure". Justice Shah replied, "There are states where bodies were found in garbage bins. They are being treated worse than animals!" When Mehta pointed out that living slept with the dead at one Delhi hospital, SC asked what has the Centre done.
Referring to a report of news channel India TV, dated June 10, SC said dead bodies were not only kept inside wards but were also left unattended in the lobby and waiting areas. The report showed that patients at the Lok Nayak Hospital, a 200-bed dedicated COVID-19 facility, were not given oxygen support. The beds were sans saline drips also, Justice Bhushan revealed.
The apex court noted that patients ran from pillar to post to get admission in hospitals, despite vacant beds. "State is duty-bound to provide staff to man these wards. Media reports have shown the pathetic condition of patients which has pained this court," the bench said. SC said requests for tests must be honored and ordered the Centre to simplify procedures in this regard.
Expressing frustration at how dead bodies of coronavirus patients are being handled, Justice Bhushan said no one followed Centre's March 15 directive, which explained the process. "There are instances when the relatives of the deceased are not able to attend their funeral. This is a very sad condition," he said. Subsequently, notices were served to Delhi, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu.
SC issued separate notices to Lok Nayak Hospital and the federal government. "Let the notice be issued today itself and reply be filed under the signature of Chief Secretary of the concerned state or secretary of the state health department," SC said. When Delhi's representative ASG Sanjay Jain said they accept the notice, a seemingly-irritated bench remarked, "You have to do more than that."