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High Court issues stringent directions on oxygen supply, ICU beds, medicines and Remdesivir injections: Karnataka High Court

The Court agrees to have issued stringent directions from time to time against the State Government and the agencies and the instrumentalities of the State but also appreciates the efforts of all the instrumentalities of the State including BBMP, the doctors, nurses, and paramedical workers who are rendering valuable services to the society at large.

It is widely known that in comparison to the legislature and the executive, what the judiciary can deliver in the realm of socio-economic rights is limited but the court addressed all issues concerning the shortage of instruments for specialized treatment required for COVID-19. In light of the worsened situation due to the Pandemic, this remarkable judicial order was passed by the Karnataka High Court in MOHAMMED ARIF JAMEEL V UNION OF INDIA [W.P.NO.6435/2020 AND OTHER CONNECTED MATTERS] by Honourable Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Honourable Justice Aravind Kumar.

This writ petition was filed considering the manner in which the surge of COVID-19 positive cases has continued and there is a paucity of all essentials related to healthcare; namely, oxygen beds, ICU beds, medicines, etc. Thus, the petitioner demanded a relief vide a judicial order from the High court.

The High Court in this writ petition adopted a stricter stance and reminded the State and Central Governments as well as their agencies and instrumentalities, their obligations as specified under the Constitution. The HC asserted that as per the ratio of Devika Biswas Vs. Union of India And Others (2016) 10 SCC 726 and Bandhua Mukti Morcha Vs Union of India & Others (1984) 3 SCC 161, “right to health is an integral part under Article 21 of the Constitution of India and protection afforded by Article 21 of the Constitution of India is a protection to the health and strength of the workers, men, and women.” Therefore, it is the obligation of all the authorities to make the best possible efforts to provide medical treatment to all those who are infected with COVID-19 since they are dealing with the fundamental right of the citizens under Article 21 of Right to Life.

Coronavirus Pandemic posed an extraordinary situation and such a disease requires specialized treatment whereas the availability of ICU beds, medicines and oxygen is a requirement in every disease. However, there has been only a marginal increase in ICU beds which is not any major relief to the patients since the figure of COVID-19 positive cases in the City has taken a sudden jump and it has crossed 22,000. It was stated by the learned counsel from Central Government the Army and Air Force will go out of the way to assist the civic administration by creating a large number of beds with oxygen and the concerned State Government shall take immediate steps.  

In light of these submissions and contentions, Division Bench observed that “State Government will have to be in the state of preparedness by making an estimate of beds which may be required in the near future in Bengaluru and in all other major cities of the State. Unless the State Government prepares the estimate of the requirement of the beds in various categories, it may not be possible to provide effective relief to the patients of COVID-19.”  

Therefore, the HC directed “the State Government to place on record, the steps taken to prepare a broad estimation of the number of beds required in near future and the steps taken to enhance the intake capacity of all the COVID-19 hospitals. Also, HC issued directions to State to set up helpdesks outside all the hospitals in the City of Bengaluru which are COVID hospitals and these helpdesks will also deal with the grievances of the citizens regarding the non-availability of beds.”

Division Bench also heard about the issue of availability of Remdesivir drug and it was stated by the State Government that the orders for the supply of Remdesivir medicine are being enrouted only through the State Government and it is the State Government which decides the quantity of supply for each hospital. The issue raised was the restricted supply to private hospitals and it was contended that there has to be a rational criterion for this purpose which will stand the test of Article 14 of the Constitution of India.

In this regard, HC directed the State Government “to make an estimate of the quantum of Remdesivir vials required in public hospitals in the State as well as for 50% beds reserved in private hospitals and submit a requisition to the Central Government accordingly. Also, the Central Government was directed to consider the requisition of the State Government for increase in the allocation to the State of Karnataka within three days.

Considering the availability of medical oxygen, it was pointed out that there is a cap of 802 metric tonnes per day. Thus, the Central and State Government were directed to “the State Government to immediately submit a representation to the concerned authority of the Central Government setting out the projected requirement of oxygen per day for at least 7 more days from tomorrow. We direct the Government of India to take an immediate decision on the requisition which may be submitted by the State Government.”

For dealing with the issue of food security for the weaker sections of the society and the issue of relief to the workers the State was required to give urgent attention and plan out concrete steps, which they propose to take for helping the weaker sections of the society by providing them ration, etc. The response of the State shall be filed on the next date.

In course of the hearing another alarming issue was raised where concern was expressed that even though no hospitalization was advised, there are many COVID-19 patients who are getting admitted into hospitals and therefore, the deserving patients are not getting beds. In this regard, the court considered the possibility of improper home isolation facilities being the reason for such excessive need for hospitalization and directed the State Government and BBMP to “consider creating more and more COVID Centres for those patients who do not require hospitalization. BBMP shall activate its Ward Level offices and ensure that those who do not require hospitalization but do not have proper isolation facilities at their homes, are shifted to the COVID Centres.

These directions issued by the Court in relation to the city of Bengaluru will have to be implemented in its true letter and spirit and even extend to other districts where there is a large number of COVID positive cases.

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