On May 26, 2020, The Division Bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rajnish Bhatnagar of the Delhi High Court has taken suo moto cognizance of a video clip showing a man struggling to find a hospital bed for his COVID-19 positive mother due to unresponsive helpline numbers.
A video-clipping, authored by a person named Dharmendra Bhardwaj which was being circulated on social media had come to their Lordships’ notice. In the video, Bhardwaj was showing that his mother Shyama Sharma was admitted to Max Patparganj Hospital on May 19, 2020, and on May 21, 2020, her Covid-19 test was found to be positive.
He was also seen claiming that the Deputy Medical Superintendent of the hospital had called him and spoke to him on the intercom and asked him to arrange a ventilator and A hospital bed in some other hospital. He furthers claimed in the video that he had visited several hospitals, but to no avail and had also called the Helpline No.1075 on several occasions with no response.
On one occasion, he was given the number of DSO bearing No.9870552526. He had also called on the said number, but again to no avail. On two other occasions, he was given two other numbers, namely, 011-22307133 and 22307145 respectively, which too were nonresponsive.
He is seen expressing his helplessness and anguish in the video and goes on to state that the tall claims made by the Govt. of NCT of Delhi (GNCTD) and the Central Government with regard to adequate arrangements being in place - to deal with patients of Covid-19 who require hospitalisation and treatment, are far from true on the ground.
He is also seen stating that he has maintained the complete record of the calls that he has made and that he is willing to share the information regarding his own experience.
According to the Court, the video recording “raises serious issues of public concern in the present-day context” and thereafter the Court proceeded to take suo moto notice of the video recording, and directed to register a PIL on the Courts own motion.
Mr. Rahul Mehra, Standing Counsel for the Government of NCT Delhi (GNCTD) and Mr. Kirtiman Singh, Senior Standing Counsel for the Union of India were present during the hearing, as they were asked to stay present in advance by the Court Master.
The Court directed the GNCTD and the Central Government to respond to the grievances narrated by Mr. Dharmendra Bhardwaj and to place before the Court the status with regard to the arrangements made to deal with serious Covid-19 patients, who need hospitalisation.
The Court also asked both the respondents to apprise the Court about the status of functional and responsive helpline numbers being operated by the GNCTD and the Central Government, the adequacy of the helpline capacity and whether the same is sufficient to deal with the present call traffic and the traffic expected in the foreseeable future, keeping in view the continuous rise in the number of cases being reported each day.
The Court also directed that the GNCTD should also consider providing ambulance facility for pickup of COVID-19 serious patients for hospitalisation, once a caller reports a serious COVID-19 case – which appears to require hospitalisation.
The Court proceeded to appoint Mr. Om Prakash, Advocate as the Amicus Curiae to assist the Court. The Amicus Curiae was directed to contact Mr. Dharmendra Bhadrwaj and after informing him of the Court order, make an audio recording of his statement with his consent.
The Amicus Curiae was also asked to call the helpline numbers and report regarding their effectiveness in providing help to the callers. All the documents, which can be availed from Mr. Dharmendra Bhardwaj were also directed to be placed on record by the learned Amicus Curiae along with his report.
The matter is listed for further hearing on June 03, 2020, and the Central Government and the GNCTD are asked to file their status reports on all the aspects mentioned in the video recording and as noted by the Court before the next date of hearing.