New Delhi: The Supreme Court Friday pulled up the Delhi government over its handling of the Covid-19 crisis and asked why coronavirus testing rate in the capital city has dipped from 7,000 to 5,000 amid a spurt in viral cases.
The bench, comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and M.R. Shah, asked Delhi government’s counsel Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain, “What is happening? Mumbai, Chennai is increasing the testing but you have gone down from 7,000 to 5,000. This is a horrendous situation. Mumbai is testing 16,000 to 17,000.
“Increasing the testing capacity is the duty of a state. Is the government (of Delhi) trying to create an artificial figure?”
The Supreme Court had taken suo motu cognisance of reports of a 60-year-old Covid-19 patient in Delhi who died after he failed to get a bed in any hospital in the city.
The judges also came down heavily on the Lok Nayak Jai Prakash (LNJP) Hospital, a dedicated Covid-19 facility under the Delhi government, saying, “They (bodies) are being treated worse than animals.”
The bench was referring to media reports showing a pile-up of Covid patients’ bodies at LNJP hospital.
The top court later issued notices to Delhi government and the LNJP Hospital, directing the chief secretary and health secretary to take stock of patient management system and submit a status report on staff in hospitals as well as patient care.
Similar notices were also issued to the central government and authorities of Maharashtra, West Bengal, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu.
‘Central govt directive on bodies not followed’
The judges told Jain Delhi was in a “sorry state of affairs” when it came to handling Covid-19 patients as well as bodies of victims.
Justice Bhushan remarked how bodies have been found in garbage bins in the capital city. To this, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta also cited instances of bodies being dragged via ropes.
Referring to a media report on the “deplorable condition” at LNJP, the bench said, “Bodies were found in the ward, lobby and waiting area. Patients had no oxygen support, no saline drops. This is the condition of LNJP that has been turned into a Covid-19 hospital by the government. It is a 200-bed hospital.”
The court also noted that the Delhi government was not following the 15 March directive issued by the central authorities on disposal of bodies. “Nobody is following it. Relatives are not being informed about the death, in some cases families have not been able to attend funerals,” the bench said.
‘Covid-19 tests cannot be denied on technical grounds’
The bench told the Delhi government it was duty-bound to ensure that coronavirus testing is increased.
“Covid-19 cases are increasing every day in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Ahmedabad. Increase is now 10,000 per day. 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 bench said.
Justice Bhushan also went on to state that people requesting for Covid-19 tests cannot be denied on technical grounds and asked the Delhi government to simplify the procedure so that more tests can be performed.