Telangana High Court on Wednesday issued a slew of instructions afresh to the State government in COVID- related PIL petitions and directed the Chief Secretary and other top officials to appear before it on July 20 if the same were not complied with by July 17.
Noting that the State government did not comply with its earlier directions in PIL pleas on the manner in which it was tackling COVID-19, the HC ‘hoped these orders’ would be enforced by the government. “Indeed, it is the fundamental duty of government to protect people from pandemic under Article 21 and Directive Principles of State Policy enshrined in schedule IV of the Constitution,” the bench observed.
“They may not be enforceable by law but the State cannot abdicate its constitutional obligations and abrogate its responsibilities towards its own people,” a bench of Chief Justice Raghvendra Singh Chauhan and Justice B. Vijaysen Reddy said. The bench asked the Chief Secretary, Principal Secretaries of Medical and Health, Municipal Administration and Urban Development and GHMC Commissioner to appear before the court on July 20 if the fresh directions were not adhered to.
The new instructions include filing of affidavits by superintendents of all government hospitals giving details of their infrastructure and the safety gear and the number of PPE kits they were distributing to doctors and para-medic staff on a daily basis to tackle COVID-19. “This particular direction was given by this court 45 days ago but the State was not implementing the same,” the bench said.
Observing that the government stopped providing crucial information about the extent of COVID spread, the bench ordered it to submit details of its ‘containment zone policy’ if there is any. “Reveal details of the clusters of containment areas if there is such list with the government,” it said.
“Provide details of the number of tests conducted on both symptomatic and asymptomatic persons and the number of positive cases,” the bench said. According to ICMR guidelines, asymptomatic direct and high risk contacts of an infected person should be tested between the fifth and 14th day of them coming into contact with the patient. It was not known whether such tests were being conducted.
Citing media reports that a Central team visited Hyderabad in the backdrop of spike in COVID cases in the city, the bench said neither Advocate General B.S. Prasad nor Assistant Solicitor General of India N. Rajeshwar Rao gave details of the findings of the team. The team also met the Chief Secretary. The bench directed the government to furnish findings of the Central team during their Hyderabad visit.
Noting that the report filed by the government in response to a batch of nine PIL pleas was vague and withheld vital information from public, the bench said “ignorance is not bliss, it is an invitation to calamity”.