Allahabad HC questions UP poll body over death of govt employees due to COVID

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Allahabad, Apr 27 (PTI) Taking note of reports about death of government employees due to COVID during Panchayat poll duty in Uttar Pradesh, the Allahabad High Court on Tuesday asked the state election commission why action may not be taken against it and its officials for the same.

A two-judge bench comprising Justice Siddhartha Varma and Justice Ajit Kumar passed the order on a suo moto Public Interest Litigation on the spread of coronavirus and the condition of quarantine centres in the state.

'It is reported that people have levelled allegations that during the recent phases of the Panchayat elections, none of the COVID guidelines have been followed. It appears that neither the police, nor the Election Commission did anything to save the people on election duty from getting infected by this deadly virus,' the court observed.

For easing the situation, the court proposed some immediate steps to be taken by the government in the cities of Lucknow, Allahabad, Varanasi, Agra, Kanpur Nagar, Gorakhpur and Jhansi.

'Major government hospitals of the above cities should have a health bulletin system twice a day apprising people of health updates of patients to help attendants avoid visiting hospitals. The hospitals may use large screens to give details of patients and their saturation levels,' it directed.

'The government is also directed to declare on the district portal of the above cities the position of occupied and vacant beds in COVID wards and ICUs of all government hospitals and COVID assigned private hospitals,' the court said.

The government is also directed to spread awareness about its district COVID portals and sites in newspapers and also through public announcement systems, it said.

The court said that a negative antigen report should not be a ground to throw a patient out of the hospital as such patients can still infect others. They need to be shifted to non-COVID wards for at least a week and for this the government needs to gear up to set up makeshift wards on hospital campuses. It directed the government must ensure that every death in COVID hospitals, assigned private hospitals and other COVID centres in every district is reported to a judicial officer, who is to be appointed by the district judge at the end of the day.

The government shall also ensure the correctness of the data forwarded to the officer concerned each day, the bench said.

The court said that it will not tolerate any paperwork or public announcements to show account of the steps taken and their sufficiency, as it is now an open secret that the government became complacent in the state due to weakening of the virus by the end of 2020. It said the government got more involved in other activities, including the Panchayat elections. 'We request the district judges of Lucknow, Allahabad, Varanasi, Kanpur Nagar, Agra, Gorakhpur, Ghaziabad, Gautam Budh Nagar, Jhansi to nominate a judicial officer, civil judge (senior division) or above. The nominated officers shall work as nodal officers in their districts and report to the registrar general every weekend.

'The said report shall be placed before us on the next date of hearing which is fixed as May 3,' the court said. PTI RAJ AAR AAR