COVID-19: HC asks Delhi govt to consider ex-gratia, job to deceased judicial officers’ kin

·4-min read

New Delhi, May 27 (PTI) The Delhi High Court Thursday asked the AAP government to consider with “empathy” and “sensitivity” the issue of granting ex-gratia and compassionate appointment to family members of judicial officers, who died of COVID-19, as judges have been recognised as frontline workers by the state itself.

The court was informed by the Delhi Judicial Services Association that the Delhi government has now recognised judicial officers as frontline workers for the purpose of COVID-19 vaccination and urged that if there are any other benefits available to other frontline workers, it shall be extended to them also.

The Delhi government informed the court that the category is created primarily for the purpose of vaccination only and in future, if there are other aspects covered, it shall be extended to judicial officers also.

The court was also informed that the government was looking into the aspect of granting ex-gratia and compassionate appointment to family members of judicial officers, who died of COVID-19.

The bench said, “we hope and expect the Delhi government to approach the matter with adequate empathy and sensitivity considering the fact that judicial officers have been recognised frontline workers by the Delhi government itself.” The court was hearing a petition by a group of lawyers, including Shobha Gupta and Rajesh Sachdeva, seeking a coordination mechanism for judicial officers are they were unable to get COVID-19 medical treatment and beds in hospitals.

The association’s application was filed in the pending petition raising the issues of medical facilities for judicial officers here.

The court disposed of the petition and the application along with another plea seeking certain reliefs for court staff, noting that the issues raised are adequately addressed.

Senior advocate Dayan Krishnan, representing the association, said after the court’s earlier order, the Delhi government has addressed the issues in a positive manner and the principal secretary (law) has been appointed as nodal officer for interacting with all the district judges in the matter of providing medical assistances to judicial officers who are COVID-19 patients.

He submitted that a committee appointed by the Delhi High Court Chief Justice, headed by Justice Mukta Gupta and which also comprises Justices Navin Chawla and Prathiba M Singh has issued directions in relation to expenditure incurred on treatment of judicial officers and the issue has been addressed.

Regarding another lawyer’s prayer that judicial officers and staff who go for treatment at non empanelled hospitals be reimbursed with the expenditure, the court said it would be premature to pass an order directing the government to clear all the claims.

The court said there are sufficient precedents available dealing with the situation where government employees, in case of emergency, take treatment in non empanelled hospitals.

“In our view, it would not be justified to pass blanket orders directing the government to pass all such claims at it needs to be examined in each case,” it said.

The court had earlier expressed concerns over the condition of subordinate judiciary’s judicial officers who are at risk of contracting COVID-19 owing to the nature of duties and observed that politicians and bureaucrats find it very difficult to accept their failure and inability as it was not in their veins.

The high court had said three judicial officers have already died after contracting the virus in the national capital and it was of the prima facie view that they should be treated akin to frontline workers like armed forces and police forces personnel and asked the government to consider it.

The court was earlier told that there was a need to attach COVID care facilities to hospitals and added that 852 judicial officers and staff were infected with the virus at that time.

The court had said like Delhi government’s officials, judicial officers can also be provided with proper facilities as they are also performing an important duty.

One of the petitions said, “the petitioners are specifically concerned about the health and life of the judicial officers in Delhi. The judicial officers in Delhi in order to maintain law and order and ensure speedy and effective delivery of justice resumed physical hearings in Courts. It is pertinent to mentioned that due to nature of work in courts, COVID protocol is not being followed in courts and judicial officers are exposed immensely.” PTI SKV SKV RKS RKS RKS