The Supreme Court
on Friday tore into the Delhi government for the
, citing low number of daily tests, improper treatment of Covid-19 patients, undignified handling of
' bodies and denial of salaries to doctors to question the government's claims about its preparedness to fight the
The court was particularly upset about the "deplorable" condition of hospitals treating Covid-19 patients, making a specific mention of images from Delhi's LNJP Hospital.
A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, Sanjay K Kaul and M R Shah said, "We are more concerned with the living than the dead. Look at the pathetic condition in the hospitals. Bodies are there in the ward where patients are getting treated. The undignified manner in which bodies are handled, dumped... They are being treated worse than animals. And why is testing so low in Delhi? Mumbai and Chennai are testing 16,000 to 17,000 whereas in Delhi, it is falling below 7,000. Media has highlighted this issue."
The court said besides Delhi, the situation was grim in Maharashtra, Gujarat and West Bengal and issued notices to the chief secretaries of the four states and ordered them to file status reports on treatment status and preparedness by Wednesday. A separate notice was issued to Delhi's LNJP Hospital for a separate status report, given its "deplorable condition".
"We direct that chief secretaries of the states shall immediately take appropriate notice of the status of patients' management in government hospitals in their respective states and take remedial action. Status reports with regard to government hospitals, patient care and details of staff, infrastructure etc should be brought before the court so that appropriate directions can be issued by the court on the next date of hearing," the bench said.
Referring to a series of media reports depicting the depressing and deplorable state of affairs in Delhi's government hospitals, the bench said, "Patients are in the wards and dead bodies are also in the same wards. Dead bodies are seen also in the lobby and waiting area. Patients were not supplied with any oxygen support or any other support, no saline drips were shown with the beds and there was no one to attend to the patients. Patients are crying and there is no one to attend to them."
When the bench took strong exception to bodies lying unattended or getting dumped, solicitor general
said the Centre, as far back as March 15, had issued 'Covid-19: Guidelines on Dead Body Management', which were in the nature of directives.
The SC said, "We notice that there is no proper adherence to the guidelines, nor are hospitals giving due care and concern to dead bodies. Close relatives of patients are not informed for several days about details of cremation, as to when the body will be cremated due to which families of patients are not even able to see the bodies or attend their last rites."
Turning its focus on Delhi and the gap in the state government's claims about the number of beds and those actually available, the bench said, "This is the condition of a government hospital of Delhi, which has a capacity of 2,000 beds. As per the government app, only 870 beds were occupied in LNJP Hospital as on June 11. The government app itself gives details of beds occupied in government and private hospitals in Delhi. In government hospitals, the number of beds is 5,814, out of which 2,620 are occupied."
"The (media) reports also indicate that patients suffering from Covid-19 are running from pillar to post to get admission in hospitals whereas a large number of beds are lying vacant in government hospitals. The large number of beds in government Covid hospitals being vacant in a situation where patients suspected of Covid-19 are running from pillar to post to get admission in any hospital tells about the mismanagement and sorry state of government hospitals in Delhi.
"The state is not only duty bound to increase the number of beds but also to provide appropriate infrastructure and staff to attend to Covid-19 patients. The pathetic condition of patients and improper care and treatment of patients shown by the media has pained this court. The state, on whom the duty lies to take care of the health of its citizens, cannot abdicate its responsibility of ensuring that all hospitals including government hospitals take care of Covid-19 patients."
Criticising the publicity resorted to daily by the AAP government on steps taken to increase bed capacity in Delhi for Covid-19 patients, the bench said, "The duty of the state of NCT Delhi does not end in informing people that it has arranged 5,814 beds in government hospitals and 9,535 beds in private hospitals. The state and its officers are also duty bound to ensure that patients are taken care of, attended to, provided all medical facilities, (and ensure that) the hospitals have necessary infrastructure and staff."
The Delhi government also drew flak for not being able to increase the number of tests conducted to identify Covid-19 patients. "We have also noticed that the government app of Delhi itself indicates that the number in testing of Covid-19 patients has gone down in the month of June as compared to the month of May. On May 27, the number of samples tested was 6,018, on June 9, the number was 4,670, on June 11, the total testing in Delhi was reported as 5,077," it said.
In contrast, Maharashtra carried out 16,000 tests daily and Tamil Nadu 17,675. The bench said when the number of patients was spiralling, it did not understand why tests have gone down in NCT Delhi. “Non-testing of patients is not a solution to the problem, rather increase in testing facility is the duty of the state, so that people may come to know about their health status regarding Covid-19 and they may take appropriate care and treatment," the bench said.
"We impress upon states to ensure that there should be a steep increase in testing, both by government hospitals and private labs, and whosoever desires for testing should not be denied on any technical ground or any other ground. The states may consider simplifying the procedure so that more and more tests be held to benefit the patients."