The Jammu and Kashmir High Court has asked police to ensure the safety of doctors and healthcare providers after reports emerged that some people kept in isolation for suspected coronavirus infection had misbehaved with medical staff and damaged hospital property.
Taking up the matter suo motu, a division bench headed by Chief Justice Gita Mittal on Monday asked the Inspectors General of Police of Kashmir and Jammu to ensure that adequate security is provided to healthcare providers who are making every possible attempt to control the spread of the coronavirus.
The high court appointed Monika Kohli as amicus curiae to assist the court on matters related to COVID-19 in the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. The two union territories have recorded over 60 cases of COVID-19 so far.
The court, which for the first time in its history held the hearing through video-conferencing and voice call, also took note of a grievance regarding the plight of the residents of the two union territories lodged in prisons in other parts of the country. It was submitted before the court that people misbehaved with some doctors working at the two hospitals in Srinagar, where quarantining and isolation of suspected and infected patients were being done.
“The doctors have complained that the persons who have been isolated are misbehaving and have also resorted to damaging available facilities. The doctors are apprehensive about their own security at the hands of the persons who have been lodged,” lawyer Faisal Qadri from Kashmir told the court. In its 11-page order, the court said, “There can be no manner of doubt that the safety and security of all health providers which would include not only doctors but also the nurses, the paramedics, mess boys, safai karamcharies as well as administrative staff at all government facilities has to be strictly ensured.” “Such care and protection have to be provided to all healthcare givers in all hospitals in the Union Territories of JK and Ladakh as well. We therefore direct the Secretary, Department of Health and Medical Education of both the Union Territories together with the IGP, Jammu, IGP, Kashmir and IGP, Ladakh to ensure that complete safety and security is provided to the personnel who are serving at all government facilities,” the court said.
It also said that “if necessary, the present security should also be beefed up to ensure that no person is able to leave the medical facility till the period of quarantine or isolation is completed” and reiterate its directions to the authorities to take strict action against the persons who are violating any instruction issued by the central government especially where their conduct would result in the spread of the COVID-19 infection and endanger lives. Kohli and Qadri also expressed deep concern about the safety and well-being of people, who have been lodged in jails outside Jammu and Kashmir, with regard to care which is required for their protection from the COVID-19 infection. “We direct the Secretary, of the UT of JK to ascertain and ensure that well-being of all such prisoners,” the order of the bench of Justice Mittal and Justice Sindhu Sharma said.
The high court also asked the union territory lawyer about the decision of a high-powered committee, as directed by the Supreme Court, which will examine prisoners who are required to be released from jails but advocate Amit Gupta, representing the union territory, was unable to inform about the proceedings of this committee. The court also took note of people going out in the morning and said it appears that there is some misunderstanding about the requirement of the lockdown as a large number of people are resorting to their usual strolls, loitering and morning walks in local parks, etc.
“A direction is issued to the law enforcing authorities and park owning authorities (all municipal corporations, development authorities) to prevent access to public parks, etc which are normally used for such purposes by the citizens. “The law enforcing agencies shall strictly ensure the lockdown and prevent any kind of activity which could adversely impact social distancing in any manner,” it said.