The plea alleged that there was delay in ensuring adequate supplies of personal protective equipment for safety of healthcare workers during the pandemic.
The Supreme Court Friday said it is not in favour of appointing a commission to inquire into the alleged mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country. A bench headed by Justice L Nageswara Rao observed that it cannot have a roving inquiry into the allegations and there is a worldwide view that judiciary should not interfere in executive decision in an emergency situation like the pandemic.
“List after two weeks. In the meanwhile, the illegible copies of the documents be replaced. Permission is also granted to file additional documents,” the bench, also comprising Justices Hemant Gupta and S Ravindra Bhat, said in its order.
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The apex court was hearing a plea filed by six petitioners, including retired bureaucrats, who have alleged that the Centre failed to undertake timely and effective measures for containing transmission of the virus and an independent panel, under the Commissions of Inquiry Act 1952, was essential to look into the “lapses”.
The plea has sought a direction to the Centre to appoint the commission, headed by a retired apex court judge, for the inquiry. The petition, filed through advocate Prashant Bhushan, claimed that the Centre’s response to the pandemic and its “deleterious impact” on the lives and livelihoods of the citizens is a “definite matter of public importance and warrants appointment of a commission” under section 3 of the Act.
It said the nationwide lockdown, which had commenced from March 25, and the manner in which it was implemented has had a “devastating impact” on jobs, livelihood and the overall economy. It alleged that the lockdown, announced on March 24, was “arbitrary, irrational and without due consultation with experts or state governments”.
“In spite of being the harshest and most restrictive lockdown in the world, it has failed to arrest the spread of the disease,” the plea claimed and also referred to the “exodus” of migrant workers and daily wagers during the lockdown from cities to their respective home towns.
It alleged that the authorities failed in drawing up national plan and issuing guidelines for providing minimum standards of relief to vulnerable sections of the society under the Disaster Management Act 2005. The plea alleged that there was delay in ensuring adequate supplies of personal protective equipment for safety of healthcare workers during the pandemic.
It claimed that the Centre has failed to undertake effective measures for containing the transmission of virus even after being notified about it by the World Health Organization in early January this year. The plea has alleged that these lapses “while dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic have led to a severe infraction of the fundamental rights of people”.
It claimed that prior to March 4 and during the months of January and February, the authorities failed to conduct screening and surveillance of adequate number of international passengers.