PIL seeks comprehensive action on coronavirus

The High Court on Thursday issued notice to Jammu and Kashmir Government on a Public Interest Litigation seeking directions for formulating a comprehensive policy for prevention, control and treatment of coronavirus.

While a division bench of Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Rajesh Bindal issued notice to J&K government through its Chief Secretary, it asked senior additional advocate general H A Siddiqui, appearing on behalf of the government at Jammu wing to share the action-taken report he has filed with the counsel of the petitioner.

The direction followed after Sidiqi informed the court that he has filed action-taken report on behalf of the Health and Medical Education Department. Assistant Solicitor General of India Vishal Sharma told the bench that he will file action-taken report on behalf of Union Territory of Ladakh before next date of hearing.

While the proceeding of the case was held through video conference, additional advocate general Shah Aamir appeared on behalf of Health and Medical Education department at Srinagar wing of the High Court. The court will now the petition on March 17.

Azra Ismail of Rawalpora Srinagar has filed the PIL through advocates Faisal Qadri and Peerzadah Salih.

Besides seeking direction for taking effective preventive measures by the government to combat the epidemic of coronavirus, the PIL seeks to provide facilities for conduct of all pathological tests and treatment free of cost.

The PIL seeks direction for setting up special screening system for the detection of suspected or infected persons at airports, bus and railway terminals across the territory besides establishing special Fever Hospitals and isolated treatment centres managed by specially trained medical and para-medical staff.

According to the petition, the epidemic is reported to have extended its impact to J&K. “Apart from such prognosis the influx of tourists and repatriation of local residents from China and other affected regions is likely to keep the situation vulnerable, further compounded by the ill-preparedness of the authorities and the recessive medical facilities,” reads the PIL.   

While the petition underlines that the local government has yet to come up with any concrete policy to combat the impeding outbreak of the disease, it says the hygienic condition of hospitals and primary health care centres continues to remain by and large dismal.

Special vigil at Airports, Railway and Bus terminal, the PIL says, is generally advised as a mode of preventive measure for identifying the victims and the carriers of the disease. “Under the precarious conditions, the state health department is under an obligation to adopt and promote the preventive measures in a concerted manner, lest to render the spread of the epidemic inevitable,” it adds.

The petitioner submits that crowded places like schools, hospitals, public utility centres including courts require special attention on sanitization and taking such measures to sieve off the infected people.

While the petitioner pleads that the medical and para-medical staff is required to be trained and equipped with the method of preventive treatment and management of the epidemic with special attention towards prophylactic measures, PIL says the state government is under an obligation to develop infrastructure for keeping in readiness the Personal Protective Equipments for the medical and para-medical staff.

The government, the petitioner said, is under an obligation to create awareness among the masses towards the development of immunity and inculcate sense of hygiene. “It is also responsible for keeping pathological laboratories accessible for the instant diagnostic tests.” 

The petitioner pleads that in J&K required preventive measures have not been adopted so far, nor is there any preparedness to deal with the situation especially when suspected to have influenced the local health conditions.

While the petition underlines that the government has failed to formulate any policy or taking any steps in imparting training to the medical and para-medical staff or in improving the hygienic conditions of hospitals and medical centres, it adds that in absence of the scrutiny of the travellers at the entry points, the local populace is susceptible to the hazards of the virus amid depleted preparedness.