Court can make surprise visit to Aurangabad quarantine centres, file case for negligence of duty: Bombay HC

"This court is making it clear that if it is found that the persons who are expected to discharge the duty are not present on the spot and due to that the spread of virus is going on, this court will be giving directions to register the crime against those persons immediately," the court said.




Expressing dissatisfaction over lack of coordination between authorities and concerned over ‘alarming situation’ in Aurangabad district, the Bombay High Court Aurangabad bench, in a significant order said that it may visit quarantine facilities and hospitals to see whether the discipline is maintained and may give directions to register a case against those not discharging their duties regardless of their ranks.

The court had also observed that while officers working in Dharavi, Malegaon and Kerala ensured containing the Covid-19 spread in these areas, the same could not be said of Jalgaon and Aurangabad as some of the officials were not properly discharging their duties.

A division bench of Justices Tanaji V Nalawade and Shrikant D Kulkarni, heard through videoconference, a suo motu public interest litigation (PIL) expressing concerns over administrative decisions to contain Covid-19 in Aurangabad region and a report related to Covid-19 deaths that had taken place at the civil hospital in Jalgaon among others.

On July 3, public prosecutor D R Kale submitted that action was being taken against public servants and submitted a compilation of details as sought by the court. Amicus curiae senior counsel Rajendra Deshmukh submitted that there was still no discipline in public servants and many in Covid-19 control programme were absent on duty.

To this, the court noted that such ‘unfortunate’ incidents were happening despite its directions and said that such persons were required to be suspended immediately and criminal action needed to be taken against them.

The bench led by Justice Nalawade said, “We have expressed that this court may visit the sites to see that there is discipline in the staff employed they are discharging their duties seriously and there are no lapses whatsoever and the visit will be paid as surprise visit to the hospitals, to the quarantine institutions and even to the isolation wards and the containment zones.”

It went on to note, “This court is making it clear that if it is found that the persons who are expected to discharge the duty are not present on the spot and due to that the spread of virus is going on, this court will be giving directions specifically in respect of those persons to register the crime against those persons immediately and those persons may be of any rank. This court will not be sparing anyone if such lapses are found.”

Earlier, on June 26, the HC took suo motu cognisance of news reports related to spike in Covid-19 positive in Aurangabad and filed the plea through its registry and appointed senior advocate Rajendra S Deshmukh as amicus curiae to assist the bench with the PIL.

The Court had observed lack of coordination and non-cooperation among various authorities of Aurangabad region and had said that all of them, including the Police machinery need to work together. The bench had said that while most of the health staff at public health centres are working with ‘devotion’ and have sacrificed lives of their families, few public servants are not working diligently.

On July 3, seeking responses from the Centre, state and civic bodies, the bench posted further hearing on July 7.

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