The Delhi High Court on Thursday dismissed a petition that highlighted the underutilization of the State's resources during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic due to exclusive reservation of COVID-19 treatment facilities for government officials and their families [Dr Kaushal Kant Mishra v. Union of India].
A Division Bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Jasmeet Singh dismissed the petition that prayed for quashing of a notification issued by the Delhi government for reservation of hotel rooms for treatment of government officers and their families.
The Court said that it did not see any merit in the case laid out by the petitioner, as it failed to take the ground reality of the situation into account.
In this regard the Court also expressed,
"We judges are not living in ivory towers. We were seeing what was happening in the city during the second wave on a daily basis. Thousands of people were looking at the State for some relief. There was such a shortage of facilities including oxygen, medicines, hospital beds, oxygenated beds, ICUs, doctors and paramedical staff that there was no question of any facilities remaining unutilised."
The Court also added that during the height of the second wave, when a majority of the citizens were safe in the confines of their homes, it was the government officials who were managing the situation on the streets.
"The wheels of administration of justice in the Capital would have come to a grinding halt without an assurance of treatment to officials. Otherwise, how do you expect them to be able to discharge their duties without fear?" the Court questioned.
Appearing for the petitioner, Advocate Rohan Thawani contended that the creation of exclusive COVID-19 facilities for officials and their families was against the Constitution of India and a violation of Right to Life and Right to Health under Article 21. He added that the few available resources were being siphoned off towards the benefit of the officials.
"It creates an invidious classification in favour of an arbitrary class persons who hold public office. There is no nexus between this classification and object of COVID-eradication," the petition said while highlighting the undertones of classism and elitism that plagued the notification.
The main grievance of the petitioner was a notification of the Delhi government dated April 27, 2021 which ordered that four hotels which are linked to the Rajiv Gandhi Super Specialty Hospital (RGSSH) and Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital (DDU) shall be exclusively reserved for “Officers/Officials of Govt. of NCT of Delhi, Autonomous Bodies, Corporations & Local Bodies” and their families.
Rooms in the Hotel Ginger, Leela Ambience, Park Plaza and the Golden Tulip were to be set aside for this purpose.
In addition to this, the plea also sought the quashing of three orders passed by the Delhi government which had segregated one laboratory and two hospitals for the officials and their families.
"At a time when Delhi’s aam aadmi is forced to run from pillar to post in search of an Oxygen Bed, the issuance of the impugned order is a disgrace to India’s constitutional ethos," the plea stated.