The Telangana High Court on Tuesday (11/05/2021) pulled up the state government on the high prices of drugs/injections, PPE kits, masks, goggles, face shield, shoe cover, gowns etc. The matter came up before the court in two separate writ petitions filed by two advocates R. Sameer Ahmed and Thirumala Rao respectively.
The first writ petition questioned the state government for not providing complete Personal Protection Equipment like N-95 mask, PPE kits etc for Doctors and Health Staff while testing suspected Covid-19 positive individuals. The other petition sought directions for free testing and treatment for Covid-19 in both private and public establishments.
The matter was considered by a bench comprising of Chief Justice Hima Kholi and Justice B. Vijaysen Reddy.
The matter which was originally posted for hearing on 13th May 2021 was preponed after taking cognizance of the video footage which showed complete non-compliance with the Covid-19 guidelines. The court also took cognizance of news reports that the state government has blocked the entry of ambulances from other states in violation of the rights of the citizens under Article 15, 19(1)(d) and 21 of the Constitution of India.
At the beginning of the hearing, the court questioned the state government on imposing increasing restrictions even when the data submitted by the state painted a rosy picture of declining Covid-19 cases. The Advocate General informed the court that the state cabinet is scheduled to meet later to discuss Covid-19 management. At this point, the court adjourned the matter to the post-lunch session.
In the post-lunch session, the court was informed that the state has decided to enforce a lockdown from 12th May 2021 to 22nd May 2021 and all the steps necessary for issuance of the emergency pass and continuation of vaccination will be ensured.
The court observed that such a knee-jerk reaction by the state is sure to cause difficulty to many and especially migrant workers who may need to return to their home state. The court directed the state government to ensure trains for the return of migrant workers and also to ensure that the workers are provided with food and accommodation during the lockdown for the period that they remain in the state.
The court ordered the Commissioners of Police for Hyderabad, Rachakonda and Cyberabad Commissionerates to ensure that the lockdown rules are not violated during festivals and celebrations and to submit video evidence to the court to prove compliance.
During the hearing, the court asked the Advocate General about the authority which issued the restrictions on the entry of ambulances from other states but the was not given an adequate reply. It was submitted that the borders were closed because of the high influx of patients even without any confirmed admissions in the state's hospitals. However, the court ordered that such a restriction on entry is a violation of the rights of the citizens and ordered that no such entry restrictions should be placed on patients seeking treatment in the state. The state can issue a circular highlighting the non-availability of beds and other facilities and even despite such notice if people decide to come to the state, they should not be turned back.
The court also questioned the central government on the deficiency in the supply of oxygen to the state. The court also called for the documents related to capping prices for Covid-19 treatment, testing and other related equipment.
The court also questioned the state as to why the provisions of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 and the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 have not been invoked to regulate the prices of life-saving drugs and other treatment and protective equipment.
The matter will again be taken up for hearing on 17th May 2021.