As India continues to grapple the second wave of coronavirus, the Supreme Court on late Sunday night urged the central and state governments to consider imposing a lockdown to control the further spread of the pandemic.
A three-member apex court bench, comprising Justice D Y Chandrachud, Justice L Nageswara Rao, and Justice Ravindra Bhat said, “We are cognizant of the socio-economic impact of a lockdown, specifically, on the marginalized communities… thus, in case the measure of a lockdown is imposed, arrangements must be made beforehand to cater to the needs of these communities.”
The top court in its order noted that getting admitted to a hospital with beds is one of the biggest challenges being faced by most individuals during this second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Left to their own devices, citizens have had to suffer immeasurable hardship. Different states and local authorities follow their own protocols. Differing standards for admission in different hospitals across the nation leads to chaos and uncertainty. The situation cannot brook any delay,” it said.
“Accordingly, we direct the Central Government to frame a policy in this regard, in exercise of its statutory powers under the Disaster Management Act, which will be followed nationally. The presence of such a policy shall ensure that no one in need is turned away from a hospital, due to no fault of their own,” it further added.
The top court in its order directed that the Central government, in collaboration with State governments, create a buffer stock of oxygen to ensure supply lines continue to function even in unforeseen circumstances and decentralise the location of the emergency stocks.
“The protection of the lives of citizens is paramount in times of a national crisis and the responsibility falls on both the Central Government and the Delhi government to cooperate with each other to ensure that all possible measures are taken to resolve the situation,” the Bench added in its order.
It also directed that Central government and State governments shall notify all Chief Secretaries/Directors General of Police/Commissioners of Police that any clampdown on information on social media or harassment caused to individuals seeking/delivering help on any platform will attract a coercive exercise of jurisdiction by this Court.
The Top Court asked the Registrar (Judicial) to place a copy of this order before all District Magistrates in the country.
The Central government is further directed to revisit its initiatives and protocols, including on the availability of oxygen, availability and pricing of vaccines, availability of essential drugs at affordable prices and respond on all the other issues highlighted in this order before the next date of the hearing on May 10.