The Supreme Court on Friday slammed the Delhi government calling its patient care during Covid-19 pandemic horrendous, horrific and pathetic.
The top court also cited news reports showing deplorable condition of medical wards in Delhi, where dead bodies were not only in wards, but were also found in lobby and waiting areas.
The observation came from a bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, S.K. Kaul and M.R. Shah, which suo moto took cognizance of the ill-treatment being meted out to Covid patients in hospitals and also the undignified way in which bodies of Covid patients were being handled.
The bench minced no words in slamming the Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi government for its handling of dead bodies, terming it “very sorry state of affairs”. The court noted that Covid patients were treated worse than animals with dead bodies being found in garbage.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, said there was a case in Delhi where dead bodies were found alongside patients, who were undergoing treatment. Mehta contended that showing no respect to a dead body is also an offence under the Indian Penal Code. Justice Shah questioned Mehta, “So what have you done?”
The bench added that patients are crying in pain and there is nobody to attend to them. “One video from LNJP hospital showed how badly the dead bodies are being treated. There is absolutely no respect for the dead bodies too”, said the bench.
The bench noted that there is no adherence to Centre’s guidelines either, and that the hospitals are not giving due care to the dead bodies. The court criticized the Delhi government, noting that more than 2,000 beds are vacant, as nobody wants to go to these hospitals. The bench told advocate Chirag Shroff, representing Delhi government, patients are in a pathetic condition in the hospitals.
It regretted that in some cases, families of the deceased aren’t even informed about the deaths and last rites also happen with no information to them.
The bench reproached the government for patients being placed alongside stacks of dead bodies in the hospitals. The bench noted that patients’ families aren’t even informed about deaths and in some cases, families haven’t been able to attend the last rites.
The bench noted that there is a problem with the way the pandemic was being fought in the national capital. “The number of tests conducted is low in Delhi compared to Chennai and Mumbai…Why are tests so less in Delhi?” the bench said. “Nobody should be denied testing on technical reasons…simplify procedure so more and more can test for Covid,” said the bench.
The top court pointed out that it is the duty of the state to conduct testing so that more people know about their health status. The top court also noted that the situation is grim even in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, and sought report from four states.
The Supreme Court reiterated that hospitals across the country are not taking proper care of Covid-19 deceased. The bench — taking into consideration the spike in cases in Maharashtra, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu — issued notices to their chief secretaries and asked them to bring on record relevant statistics on patient management system, number of patients, availability of beds and doctors.
The court also sought response from the Centre and listed the matter for further hearing next week.