NEW DELHI: It is very easy to criticize the government or the courts unless you are in the hot seat, but some of the most advanced countries in the world also faced difficulties in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, the Supreme Court on Monday said in a statement. Asked the petitioner to investigate the shortfall in the supply of oxygen during the second wave.
The top court said that at this time when the country is facing a difficult situation, people should be wary of doing anything that may demoralize the authorities dealing with the crisis.
The court made the remarks while hearing a PIL seeking setting up of an inquiry commission headed by a retired judge of the apex court or high court or a CBI probe into the alleged non-availability and non-availability of medical supplies. Oxygen for COVID-19 patients during the second wave of the pandemic from March to May this year.
A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and BV Nagarathna, while dismissing a PIL filed by one Naresh Kumar, observed that the charges with respect to criminal wrongdoing can neither be presumed nor can be leveled lightly without sufficient material .
“For the reasons stated in the circumstances, we are not inclined to entertain the PIL. The petition is accordingly dismissed???”
Advocate Medhanshu Tripathi, appearing for Kumar, submitted that lakhs of people died during the second wave due to non-availability of oxygen.
??Even in most of the developed countries of the world, they were not able to control the pandemic.
You see, it is very easy to criticize the government or the courts for that matter, unless you are in the hot seat?? The bench said.
??Now that the second wave is over, should the court do a legal post-mortem of what went wrong or instead we do something positive so that such mistakes don’t happen again or we are well prepared for future exigencies , ?? added this.
The bench said that earlier this year, this court, in exercise of its jurisdiction, had constituted a national task force consisting of eminent doctors from various institutions of the country.
The National Task Force (NTF) despatch has been prepared and one of the issues complicating it is regarding ensuring availability of oxygen supply to meet the requirement of patients during the pandemic.
“In view of the fact that a body of experts has been constituted to specifically look into the matters relating to availability and distribution of oxygen, it is neither proper nor appropriate to take parallel action by constituting a commission of inquiry???” The bench said.
It said that in respect of adoption of jurisdiction under Article 32 for investigation by an investigating agency or CBI, the remedy available under CrPC should be preceded by invocation.
??Without doing so, the petitioner has sought to directly invoke the jurisdiction under Article 32,?? Stating that this court has done something positive like COVID vaccination, the petitioner will try to do something positive and give his suggestions to the National Task Force or the Govt.
The bench told Tripathi, ??At this time, the country is dealing with a difficult situation, people should be careful from doing anything which may demoralize the people dealing with the crisis??.
Justice Chandrachud said he does not see what a retired judge headed by a commission of inquiry can do which the National Task Force cannot.
??They are all eminent doctors and are well aware of the situation??, said the Bench.
Tripathi said this is not any other litigation but a pure PIL as the petitioner himself was a victim of non-availability of oxygen during the second wave and so was the fate of many patients.
“We have seen your petition, we know what happened. We should leave it to the government to enhance the health infrastructure. We have inherited 100 years old health infrastructure, which was not enough. Now that the national Health policy is in place, which will take care of many issues???,” the bench said.
Tripathi said an expert panel has warned the government in advance about the second wave and the shortcomings, but it has failed to act and has not increased the strength of doctors or other infrastructure.
The bench said that it is also very easy to blame the people in power or the doctors of government hospitals, who are often assaulted when the patient dies.
“It often happens that when a patient dies in a hospital, it is because of some kind of negligence on the part of the hospital staff or doctors and they are assaulted. But in reality, it is not like that. that sometimes a patient may die inspite of the best efforts made by the doctors,” the bench said.
Kumar, in his plea, has alleged that several COVID patients have lost their lives in different parts of the country due to non-availability of medical oxygen during the second wave of the pandemic.
In his petition filed through advocate Rajiv Kumar Dubey, Kumar, a resident of Delhi, said, “This court through its various judgments has logically extended the definition of right to life to include right to health.
Therefore, it is the fundamental duty of the state to look after the health of the public at large???
In May, the apex court took a suo moto cognizance of the 12-member list of top medical experts in a suo motu case on COVID preparedness to devise a methodology for allotment of oxygen to states and union territories for facilitating and saving lives of COVID-19 patients. Member NTF was formed. A public health response to the pandemic.