PIL in SC seeks setting up of panel to probe Centre's 'mismanagement' of COVID-19 pandemic

The petition said the Centre failed to undertake timely and effective measures for containing the transmission of COVID-19 even after being notified by the WHO in early January

Press Trust of India July 22, 2020 23:39:27 IST
PIL in SC seeks setting up of panel to probe Centre's 'mismanagement' of COVID-19 pandemic

New Delhi: A petition was filed in the Supreme Court on Wednesday seeking setting up of a commission to conduct an independent inquiry into the alleged mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic by the Centre.

The petition, which is likely to come up for hearing next week, said the commission be headed by a retired Supreme Court judge and comprising experts from fields of medical science, epidemiology, public health, law and social sciences.

The response of the respondent (Union of India) to the pandemic and the deleterious impact of the same on the lives and livelihoods of citizens of the country is a definite matter of public importance and warrants appointment of a Commission..., it said.

The petition, filed by advocate Prashant Bhushan, said that the centre failed to undertake timely and effective measures for containing the transmission of the disease within India even after being notified about the said disease by the WHO in early January, 2020 itself.

It said that the government failed to devise a national plan and did not take timely and targeted steps to handle the inevitable impact of the lockdown regarding loss of jobs and incomes, destruction of livelihoods, starvation, destitution and the exodus of migrant workers and daily-wage earners from the cities to their respective hometowns and villages.

It further accused the government of delay and lethargy in ensuring adequate supplies of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) for the safety of healthcare workers.

It claimed that those lapses on the part of the centre led to a severe infraction of the fundamental rights of people.

Respondent failed to nip the problem in the bud by not conducting effective screening and surveillance of international passengers coming into India as well as carrying out a public awareness campaign from January itself when India had very few cases of COVID-19 .

Prior to 4 March and during the critical months of January and February, the respondent failed to conduct screening and surveillance of adequate number of international passengers, it said.

Regarding the lockdown, it claimed that the manner in which it was implemented left a devastating impact on jobs, livelihoods and the overall economy.

Nearly six crore people between the ages of 20 and 39 have lost their jobs in April itself and the livelihoods of 40 million migrant workers have been abruptly disrupted.

In the absence of adequate food and shelter provisions being provided by the Respondent, these migrant workers have been left to fend for themselves, with many walking thousands of kilometres to return to their hometowns/villages, it said.

It said that in absence of any advance planning or social security measures by the Respondent, the lockdown has deprived these migrant workers, daily wage earners and other vulnerable people of their right to livelihood, which has been held to be a part of right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution.

...the right to life of healthcare workers, including doctors, nurses and other medical staff, has been compromised owing to the Respondent's inexplicable delay in scaling up the procurement of PPEs. These healthcare workers are subjected to extremely high viral loads while treating COVID-19 patients in hospitals, and therefore, are at greatest risk of contracting the virus, it said.

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