Expressing dissatisfaction over the State government not enforcing its orders in PIL pleas related to COVID-19, Telangana High Court on Monday directed six top officials, including the Chief Secretary, to appear before it on July 28.
Principal Secretaries of Medical and Health and Municipal Administration, Public Health Director, Director of Medical Education and GHMC Commissioner were the other officers told to be present before the court. The direction was issued by a bench of Chief Justice Raghvendra Singh Chauhan and Justice B. Vijaysen Reddy, after hearing a batch of 10 PIL petitions on different issues connected to coronavirus.
Observing that ‘government’s inaction amounted to criminal negligence and the court would not be a part of it’, the bench passed a slew of directions to the government. Terming as vague the reports filed separately by Public Health Director, GHMC Commissioner, superintendents of Government hospitals and Principal Secretary of Medical and Health, the CJ sought to know why the officials were not implementing the HC directions issued from time to time on pandemic related petitions.
The bench told Advocate General B.S. Prasad to ask the government to enforce the HC orders. “This is the fourth and last chance given to government ..or else the court would make sure that heads start rolling,” the bench remarked. The bench expressed its ire over Public Health Director G. Srinivasa Rao and Director of Medical Education Ramesh Reddy stating that the two officials did not bother to implement HC directions.
“Why cannot the government get rid of these two officials. Why no action is taken against them,” the CJ asked. The bench said why an FIR under section 156 of Cr.P.C. should not be issued, if not initiate contempt of court proceedings, against them for failing to enforce simple directions of the court. The CJ said the pandemic had taught every country in the world that healthcare sector should be taken care of.
“If you don’t, you will go the same way as Spain, Italy and right now America is going,” the CJ said. Citing a WHO report, the bench said by this September nearly half the population of the world is likely to be affected by coronavirus. That would translate into 2 crore people of Telangana getting affected by the virus. The bench wondered if the government was geared up to meet such situation. “I am sorry to say that the State is not aware of the bleak future ahead,” the bench remarked.
The bench opined that Telangana was far behind other States in conducting tests. The figures for sample tests per million population in Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala were 25,145, 26,121, 14,669, 9,050 and 6,287 respectively. The corresponding figure for Telangana was 5,962. Why this low sample testing, the bench sought to know.
The bench also wanted to know why the government was not contemplating re-imposition of lockdown in GHMC area. The bench cited the examples of some States which chose to impose lockdown in the backdrop of surge in COVID cases.