By LE Desk
New Delhi, April 24: Senior lawyers have spoken out against the Supreme Court’s decision to take suo motu cognizance of the Covid-19 crisis. A bench led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde had on April 22 said that the apex court could “withdraw the issue” from the high courts and deliberate on the same.
At least six high courts in the country, including Delhi HC and Bombay HC, have taken up issues related to the government’s Covid-19 management. Directions have been passed to state and central governments asking them to ensure a stable supply of facilities, especially medical oxygen.
The Delhi and Bombay high courts even made observations critical of the central and state governments over lapses.
With the apex court now taking up the matter, the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) has stepped in with a plea objecting to the suo motu notice, India Today reported.
The plea filed by the SCBA argues that the present situation being “unprecedented”, several issues are arising at a local level. Such issues have to be handled by the respective state governments, said the Bar.
In its plea, the Bar Association said, “Since there is absence of preparedness in advance for the present situation by the central and state machinery, some difficulties are arising at local level and same are being resolved by various Hon’ble High Court in view of the local situation..”
“High Courts will be better equipped to deal with the local issues keeping the local conditions in view,” the plea goes on to add.
Many other senior lawyers, including former attorney general Mukul Rohatgi, former SCBA president Dushyant Dave, advocate Prashant Bhushan and others also termed the Supreme Court’s decision as “unnecessary”.
Taking to social media, senior advocate and Congress leader Vivek Tankha said in a tweet, “State high courts should be allowed to monitor at micro level. #SupremeCourt has neither time nor details to deal with challenges facing states. HC orders enjoy public faith.”
“After twiddling their thumbs for days & doing nothing about the Carnage of Covid & the ineptitude of govts, the SC intervenes to derail the HCs which are trying to bring succour to the people!” said advocate Prashant Bhushan.
The CJI-led bench, which also includes Justices S Ravindra Bhat and L Nageshwar Rao, had in its order noted, “The high courts have passed certain orders which may have the effect of accelerating and prioritising the services to a certain set of people and slowing down the availability of these resources to certain other groups whether the groups are local, regional or otherwise.”
Six high courts – Delhi, Bombay, Sikkim, Madhya Pradesh, Calcutta, Allahabad and Gujarat – have so far taken up matters and issued directions to respective governments regarding the scarcity of medical oxygen, hospital beds, Remdesivir and other essential drugs.
In addition, the courts also pulled up officials over delays in vaccinating the population.
Just recently, the Supreme Court had issued a stay on an order by the Allahabad HC imposing a lockdown in five major cities in Uttar Pradesh to break the chain of transmission.
In its plea, the Supreme Court Bar Association said the Apex Court in many cases “has held consistently that Hon’ble High Courts’ powers under Article 226 of the Constitution of India is not only vast enough to cover the ambit of Article 32 thereof, rather it’s ambit travel beyond the latter.”
The Bar also pointed out that the SC could consider the “larger issues” of coordination between states, such as inter-state free and fast movement of essential supplies related to treatment of infected patients as well as basic needs of the general public for survival during this misfortune, issues of migrant labourers returning home due to lockdown imposed in the area of their employment, which definitely require a centralised consideration, according to India Today.
For all other issues, the Supreme Court Bar Association argued that the high courts, situated almost invariably in the capital of the states, are in a better position to seek immediate reports from the local administration and pass directions and orders for immediate removal of difficulties arising in treatment of infected patients depending upon local emergent situation.