SC intervention in COVID-19 management uncalled for: Congress

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New Delhi, Apr 23 (PTI) The Congress on Friday termed as 'wrong' and 'uncalled for' the suo motu intervention made by the Supreme Court in the management of COVID-19 in the country, alleging it amounts to over-centralisation of judicial powers.

Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said high courts were efficiently upholding the citizens' right to life and holding the government accountable in a more nuanced way on a case-to-case basis and they should have been allowed to carry on their work.

'The Supreme Court's intervention on April 22, 2021 is totally uncalled for. Unfortunately, it is wrong, wrong and wrong. It is wrong because it is not suo motu ameliorative but a reaction to palliative high court orders,' he said.

'It is wrong because decentralisation not over centralisation — judicial, administrative and societal — is the need of the hour,' he told reporters at a virtual press conference.

Singhvi said it is wrong because the SC has not done and could not have done what diverse HCs have done, especially what the Delhi High Court did at 9 pm to give some relief to the oxygen starved common man of Delhi.

He asked why the high courts are being allegedly prevented from discharging their duties.

However, the Supreme Court on Friday observed that it did not stop high courts from hearing cases related to COVID-19 management in the country.

A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde, who is demitting office as the CJI Friday itself, rapped some senior advocates for making statements without reading its order passed on Thursday.

The Supreme Court also allowed senior advocate Harish Salve to withdraw as amicus curiae for the suo motu case related to distribution of essential supplies and services, including oxygen and drugs, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Singhvi said it is wrong because the SC should not at the 11th hour, with one day's notice, and on the very last day of the incumbent CJI's term of office, have 'virtually paralysed' the ongoing action in the country giving a healing touch to local problems at the local level.

Taking note of the grim situation created by the massive surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths, the Supreme Court had on Thursday said it expects the Centre to come out with a national plan to deal with proper distribution of oxygen and essential drugs for the patients.

'It is wrong because the SC is ill equipped to deal with such local issues, local logistics and should not supplant that local touch on erroneous and fallacious touchstone of uniformity.

'It is wrong because such orders have a demoralising, chilling, paralysing and negative effect on the excellent work being done by other non governmental institutions of governance, including high courts,' he said.

The Congress leader said the intervention is wrong because it may have the unintended effect of legitimation of the 'utter failure' of the central government on all fronts in its anti-COVID policies and actions.

He alleged that it is is wrong because the SC, having been unable or unwilling to take hard, concrete steps for solution and significant mitigation of COVID related hardships over the last 15 months has in fact intervened at the peak of the crisis in a manner which may well retard and impede effective ongoing solution oriented measures.

He also alleged that the SC has decided to appoint a Non resident Indian as an amicus curiae while appearing and arguing in a case to reopen a plant that was shut down for green violations.

'It is unfortunate and concerning to see the crucial office of the Attorney General being undermined. Why was he, as the number one constitutionally designated officer of the court, not even called upon,' he said.

Singhvi also asked why the government failed to bring proper infrastructure for COVID management despite wasting almost one and a half year.

He also asked why the government is allegedly under reporting cases of infections and deaths and why have the number of tests gone down in places like Delhi, which is hardly conducting 1 lakh tests per day. PTI SKC DV DV