A Petition was filed in the Meghalaya High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution for monitoring the steps undertaken by the State Government to contain the spread of COVID-19 and to alleviate the plight of the citizens of the state. Additionally, an affidavit was also filed stating the crisis and obstruction faced while disposing of the mortal remains of Dr. Sailo who had succumbed to the COVID-19 virus.
S.P Mehta, Counsel for the Petitioners stressed upon the urgent need for setting up screening booths in adequate numbers, and to furthermore direct the Respondents to disclose the number of Personal Protective Equipment and test kits available with the Government and their availability at hospitals and health centres across the State. Another important aspect which was highlighted by the Senior Counsel was the absence of designated COVID-19 hospitals and the absence of any State notification regarding the proper burial and cremation of victims succumbing to the virus.
K.Paul, vice president of the High Court Bar Association further stated about the poor shape of steps taken by the State to handle situations that transpired after the first positive COVID-19 case was detected in Shillong which led to the to the death of senior doctor. He also submitted about the lack of food and assistance provided to patients at Bethany Hospital which was identified as a quarantine facility apart from IIM, Shillong.
Shockingly, no tests were conducted even though the people who had come in contact with the abovementioned doctor since 13.04.2020 had come forward. Another exigent point of contention in the said Petition was the incident that occurred on 15.04.2020 wherein the local bodies prevented the cremation and burial of the deceased senior doctor. Also, the State Government had relaxed the curfew by allowing 1500 shops to be opened, which may have disastrous consequences at this point of time.
Mr. A. Kumar, Learned Counsel for the Respondent submitted that the State Government had taken all the required preventive measures with regards to the pandemic situation and that the Petitioners should first look at the steps taken by the Government instead of making vague allegations.
Condemning the poor handling of the abovementioned situations by the State and local bodies/Durbar Shnongs, the Division Bench comprising of Justice H.S. Thangkhiew and Justice W. Diengdoh directed the State Government to conduct tests of all those people who had come in primary contact with the deceased doctor and ensure that adequate food and assistance is provided to those stranded at Bethany Hospital. The Court ordered the State Government to strictly adhere to the guidelines issued by the Government of India and WHO. Also, the Bench stated that any person/local body/organization obstructing the controlling of the pandemic including obstructing the cremation of the deceased COVID-19 victims, will be dealt in accordance with the law.
Order:PIL No.4 of 2020