Taking suo motu cognizance of incidents where coronavirus patients were treated “worse than animals” and made to sleep with dead bodies in Delhi hospitals, the Supreme Court on Friday (June 12) sought responses from the Centre and different states on the treatment of COVID-19 patients and the dismal handling of bodies.
Hospitals are not giving due care to the keeping of bodies and not even informing family members about deaths, as a result they are unable to attend the last rites, the top court said.
A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, S K Kaul and M R Shah also issued notices to the Centre, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu.
“COVID-19 patients are treated worse than animals. In one case, a body was found in the garbage. Patients are dying and nobody is there even to attend to them” the court said.
“The situation in Delhi is horrendous, horrific and pathetic,” the bench said during the hearing asking the Delhi government why its testing is low.
It said that the guidelines of central government are not being followed and directed the Chief Secretaries of the states to take stock of patient management system and submit status report regarding hospital staff and patient care.
The top court had on Thursday taken suo motu cognizance of reports of improper handling of COVID-19 patients and undignified disposal of the victims’ bodies in the country. Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde had taken note of the situation relating to the handling of COVID-19 patients and bodies of the victims and assigned the case to a bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan.
The top court titled the case as “Proper Treatment of COVID-19 Patients and Dignified Handling of Dead Bodies in Hospitals etc.” and listed the matter for Friday.
A plea was moved in the Delhi High Court on Friday seeking contempt action against Delhi government’s chief and health secretaries as also medical director of LNJP Hospital for not adhering to the undertaking and directions related to handling of bodies of COVID 19 patients lying on the hospital premises.
The contempt petition, which has impleaded Delhi Chief Secretary, Principal Secretary of Health Department and Medical Director of LNJP Hospital as parties, is likely to come up for hearing on June 15.
Advocate Awadh Kaushik, in his contempt plea, alleged that the bodies of the dead are lying in the same wards and corridors of the Lok Nayak Jai Prakash (LNJP) Hospital in Delhi, where COVID-19 patients are being admitted and kept.
The plea and referred to news videos showing shocking, disturbing and shameful pictures of naked bodies and unconscious patients laying on bare floor in the COVID 19 wards.
The plea said these officials have breached their own undertaking regarding bodies of COVID-19 patients since they have repeatedly assured the court that no bodies are lying in the ward and corridors of the hospital. However, the videos shown by the media are horrible, it said.
The plea sought direction to the authorities to explain the conduct for committing contempt of court by not complying with their own undertaking and not complying with the directions and also sought initiation of action against them.
It sought to constitute a committee of experts including doctors and advocates or any other person to forthwith an inspection in LNJP Hospital to access the current situation of patients admitted there and bodies lying and submit a report for fixing liability of the delinquent officers.
It added that the authorities be directed to take immediate remedial steps to provide adequate treatment to COVID 19 patients admitted in the hospitals and to remove the bodies lying in the wards and corridors, as per the procedure.
The high court had recently taken suo motu (on its own) cognisance over the dilapidated state of the crematoriums as well as piling up of bodies at the LNJP hospital in New Delhi.
It has been monitoring the implementation of AAP governments order relating to handling of bodies of those who died of COVID 19.
The Delhi government had given an assurance that this was only a one-time situation and all steps were being taken by them to ensure the timely disposal of the dead bodies and their cremation, the plea pointed out.
Reports have been appearing in the media on alleged improper handling of COVID-19 patients and bodies of the victims in hospitals.
In a recent case, the West Bengal government was left embarrassed when an alleged video of municipality workers stowing decomposed bodies of COVID patients into a van for cremation, went viral on Thursday (June 11). While the state government called the video fake, Governor Jagdeep Dhankar has sought a report on the incident from the home secretary.
Another video that surfaced on Thursday showed municipal workers dumping a dead body in a garbage van in Balrampur district of Uttar Pradesh. After heavy backlash, the state government suspended seven employees, including three policemen and four municipality workers.
(With inputs from agencies)