New Delhi: The Supreme Court Wednesday gave the Delhi Government two days to withdraw all prosecution and suspension orders, if any, against the doctors and healthcare workers who highlighted the deplorable conditions of state-administered hospitals through mobile videos or photographs.
“Don’t shoot the messenger. You can’t threaten doctors, staff. Stop harassing the doctors, stop registering FIRs against them. Let them do their job,” a bench of justices Ashok Bhushan, S.K. Kaul and M.R. Shah told Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Sanjay Jain, who argued on behalf of the Delhi Government.
The bench was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) registered last week after it took suo motu cognizance of media reports on the “deplorable manner” in which government-run hospitals were treating Covid-19 patients and the “inhuman” handling of bodies of those who died from the virus.
On 12 June, the court had asked the Delhi government and the Lok Nayak Jai Prakash (LNJP) Hospital to file responses on the allegations of mistreatment of patients by state-run hospitals.
According to reports, the LNJP Hospital had been treating Covid-19 patients under horrifying conditions.
The bench’s remarks against the Arvind Kejriwal-led government came after it reviewed the affidavits filed by the government and the LNJP Hospital.
It said that it was dissatisfied with the Delhi Government’s affidavit as it implied that “everything was excellent” in the national capital.
“Our purpose to issue notice was to improve things. But you say everything is alright,” the bench told Jain.
The court sought a fresh and “better” affidavit from Delhi and will hear the matter again Friday.
‘Do not suppress the truth’: SC
In his submission, Jain said the government did not dispute the errors committed in the past. However, he said, after the meeting convened by Union Home Minister Amit Shah Sunday, new remedial measures have been taken with an objective to provide adequate healthcare facilities.
“We are alive to the situation and not leaving anything to chance. Steps have been taken to strengthen our capacity to handle cases” Jain told the court.
The bench was, however, unimpressed with the law officer’s explanation. Justice Kaul pointed out that the affidavit filed by LNJP mentioned the suspension of a worker who filmed the hospital on his mobile phone.
“We have said this before. Doctors and healthcare workers are our warriors and you are shooting the warriors. They need support but you seem to be interested in filing FIRs and suspending them. You cannot keep threatening doctors. This must stop,” Justice Kaul said.
Justice Shah added: “You do not want the truth to come out. Do not suppress the truth.”
“Whatever actions you have taken against doctors in the past must be withdrawn by day after tomorrow,” the bench reiterated.
MHA to monitor Delhi govt’s actions on day-to-day basis
The Delhi Government’s affidavit also stated that after the meeting between Chief Minister Kejriwal and Home Minister Shah, a decision was taken to increase the daily Covid-19 tests from 5,000 to 10,000 in two days and to 15,000 in four days.
The response also noted that the MHA will monitor all the actions of Delhi Government on a day-to-day basis.
“It has also been decided at the aforesaid meeting that Govt of India, Govt. NCT of Delhi and all local bodies in NCT of Delhi shall work as a team to fight COVID-19 pandemic,” the affidavit said.
The government denied the claim that patients have been running from pillar to post for admission to LNJP hospital.
“No serious patient was denied admission and as such only those patients are being admitted whose condition is serious; others having minor symptoms are being advised for home quarantine. It was also noted that the hospital was being referred to patients by various doctors without any proper protocol, which was leading to some confusion among patients,” it stated.
To ensure a “smooth and hassle-free admission” for the patients, all Covid-designated hospitals have been asked to set-up a 24×7 help desk along with display boards and LED screens to inform about the availability of beds, added the affidavit.