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University is bound to take care of the health of the students and teachers: High Court of Delhi

Judicial notice can be taken of the fact that various organizations and institutions have gone out of their way, during the current pandemic, to make various facilities available to their employees and other stakeholders, in order to safeguard their health during the current surge of the COVID- 19 pandemic. The JNU ought not to be an exception in this regard. This was held in JAWAHARLAL NEHRU UNIVERSITY TEACHERS ASSOCIATION THROUGH: MOUSHUMI BASU & ORS.v. JAWAHARLAL NEHRU UNIVERSITY THROUGH: VICE CHANCELLOR & ANR [W.P.(C) 5263/2021] in the High Court of Delhi by single bench consisting of JUSTICE PRATHIBA M. SINGH.

The facts are that the writ petition has been filed by the Students Union and the Teachers Union at JNU. The Petitioners are seeking various directions to the Respondents including a direction for setting up COVID care facilities in the University Campus, a COVID response team, and certain Oxygen facilities inside the University Campus premises.

The counsel for the petitioner submitted that the main grievance of the Petitioners is that administration of the University as also the Govt. Authorities to whom letters were written have been completely silent to the repeated requests of the Petitioners qua setting up a COVID care facility and oxygen production facilities. Accordingly, they have been forced to approach this Court. The right to life and health of all the residents/occupants on the campus is under severe jeopardy.

The counsel for the respondent submitted, she does not have instructions as to what steps have been taken within the University for dealing with the second wave of COVID-19 within the campus. She seeked time to take instructions from the relevant authorities. The Counsel on behalf of the GNCTD and the SDM submitted that if the administration permits, they are willing to coordinate with the faculty, students, and the administration, in order to set up a COVID care facility, which would be attached to some hospital.

The court observed that “The first letter was sent by the Petitioners i.e., the students and the teachers of JNU to the Administration on 13th April 2021, which shows that it has been almost a month since they have been following up but the same has completely failed to evoke a response. If this is true, this would constitute gross neglect by the JNU administration in a situation which is completely alarming.”

Considering the facts of the case, the rigor of the current COVID-19 pandemic wave and the correspondence which has been placed on record in  Court observed that, there had been a three-fold increase in the number of cases in just three weeks. The Court thus directed the Registrar, JNU to immediately give instructions to file a status report, as to what are the steps taken by the administration of JNU in respect of the requests made and letters written by the Petitioners. The court also directed Vice Chancellor/Registrar of JNU and the SDM/ADM of the concerned area to place on record a status report, as to whether such a COVID care facility can be created at JNU.

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