On Tuesday (June 1, 2021), the Gauhati High Court has sought the Assam Government's response to an alleged vicious attack on frontline medical professionals (Doctors, Nurses, and Ward Boys) by attendants of a COVID patient and a group of persons in the Udali Model Hospital, Hojai District of Assam. Within two weeks, a bench of Chief Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia and Justice Manash Ranjan Pathak ordered the Assam government to outline the steps it has taken or plans to take to guarantee that such instances do not occur again.
The case in front of the Court
The Court was hearing a letter petition from Advocate On Record, Supreme Court, Sneha Kalita, in which she stated that following the death of a patient suffering from COVID and pneumonia at Udali Model Hospital in Hojai district of Assam, one Dr. Seuj Kr. Senapati (victim) was brutally attacked by the attendants. Also, though some frontline medical personnel, such as doctors, nurse, and ward boys, managed to flee, they were injured and severely traumatised by the tragedy.
The letter further stated, "In this ongoing crisis situation, if health-care workers are attacked and subjected to mob violence in the hospital itself, it is past time for all stakeholders to take all necessary actions against the perpetrators and bring them to justice under the law, as well as take action under the Epidemic Disease (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020, as it is a gross human rights violation and an attack on a fundamental right."
Apart from expressing concern for doctors and paramedics, who are the frontline warriors, and mentioning an incident in which a doctor was manhandled and beaten up by a mob in Udali Model Hospital in the Hojai district, the petition prayed that the State take appropriate measures to ensure that such incidents do not occur again.
Submission of the State
The State's Advocate General, D. Saikia, informed this Court that in the case of the Udali incident, the relevant persons, a total of twenty-four, were arrested within twenty-four hours and are currently incarcerated, and that due process of law is being followed in this case. Furthermore, he said that the government is aware of the care it must provide to its doctors and paramedics and that, because this is a public-interest case, it is open to any proposals and instructions in this regard. The Court responded by ordering that a statement of progress in the case be filed with the Court within two weeks. Importantly, the Court stated that no weapon or firearm should be brought into a hospital with immediate effect.
The matter has been listed for further hearing on 14th July, 2021.