Legal News

Stop Playing On The Back Foot; Hiding COVID Deaths Not In Public Interest, Gujarat HC Suggests Government 

The Gujarat High Court has asked the state government to “stop playing on the back foot”, after noting that it has been caught unawares by the rise in COVID-19 cases in certain cities.

In its order on a suo motu (of its own accord) plea on the COVID-19 situation, a division bench of Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Justice J B Pardiwala directed the state government to issue appropriate orders to the concerned authorities “to put all the districts across the state on high alert” and take action to curb the surge of cases by following the “Ahmedabad model”.

“We are constrained to observe that despite putting best of its efforts, the state government has been getting caught unawares and it gets into action only after the situation worsens. In other words, or rather in simple words, we may say that the state government should now stop playing on the back foot,” the court said in its order.

When the pandemic in Ahmedabad became serious, the state government gave it extra attention and focus, and the situation was brought under control, the court said, citing that a similar attention was given to Surat.

“Today, Rajkot and Jamnagar are the two cities which are hit extremely bad. This situation could definitely have been averted if timely action and precautions had been taken.

Unfortunately, the same was not done and it has resulted in a situation beyond control,” the bench noted.

In its order, the court also expressed anguish over the fact that people were not cooperating with the state government to control the pandemic and were gathering at public places in large numbers and were not wearing masks.

“If each individual takes upon himself the responsibility of protecting his life, such endeavour will surely bring very good results, and within a short time, we may be able to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic,” it said.

The court also asked political leaders not to flout rules and regulations prescribed to combat the pandemic.

On a plea claiming that the state government has been “suppressing real figures of COVID-19 deaths and positive cases,” the court said it does not propose to go into the question “as, even otherwise, it is a highly disputed question of fact.

“We could have seriously called upon the state government on this issue, but we take it that the figures which are disclosed or declared at the end of the day are true and correct figures,” it said.

The court said that if there is any element of truth in what has been claimed in the plea, then it is surely “not in public interest”.

“It is necessary to disclose the true and correct figures of the COVID-19 deaths and positive cases so that people are able to understand and comprehend the seriousness of the situation. People will not take things for granted.

This will definitely have a psychological impact on the society at large. This aspect should be borne in mind by the state government as a suggestion from this court,” it said.

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