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'Concerned' citizens object to change in Gujarat HC bench hearing Covid-19 cases

By Our Representative
In a representation to Gujarat Chief Justice Vikramnath Singh, senior advocates, scholars and activists have come together to express their “serious concern” over his decision to replace the High Court bench comprising Justices JB Pardiwala and IJ Vora with a new bench comprising himself and Justice JB Pardiwala. Justices Pardiwala and Vora had passed strong strictures on the state BJP government for its “inept” handling of the Covid-19 crisis.
Endorsed by about 60 “concerned citizens”, the representation says, “In the context of the suo moto and matters (PILs and applications) related to the Gujarat government's response to Covid-19 situation in the state, we would like to express our disappointment and serious concern regarding your decision to change the bench seized of the matter.”
The signatories include advocates Anand Yagnik and Shamshad Pathan, scholars Prof Ghanshyam Shah, Prof Raghu Rangarajan, Prof Ankur Sareen and Prof Svati Joshi, former National Institute of Design director Ashok Chatterjee, activists Nirjhari Sinha, Indukumar Jani and Prasad Chacko, and Ahmedabad’s top VS Hospital independent trustee Rupa Chinai.
They tell the Chief Justice, “While we fully recognize and accept your power to do so as the master of the roster, we feel that this decision would break the continuity of the hearings and the significant directions that the court has been issuing to the government.”
Requesting him to reconsider his to reconsider decision to alter the composition of the bench in order to “retain the same bench in the interest of continuity and efficiency, till this matter is fully and finally disposed off”, the signatories say, “This would ensure an unbroken thread of hearings and passing of relevant directions.”
On May 11, the bench comprising Justices Pardiwala and Vora took suo moto cognizance of the issue of migrants in Gujarat, and clubbed it along with the matters pertaining to Covid-19 control. Ever since it had been hearing the matter along with PILs filed on the issue.
On May 22, the bench criticized pathetic conditions in the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital, expressing alarm over the high morbidity rate of the Covid-19 patients. It said that the condition of the hospital was "pathetic" and it was "as good a dungeon".
The court wondered if the Gujarat government was aware that the lack of adequate number of ventilators was the cause of high mortality of patients. "Is the state government aware of the hard fact that the patients at the Civil Hospital are dying because of lack of adequate number of ventilators? How does the state government propose to tackle this problem of ventilators?", the bench asked.
The bench had criticized pathetic conditions in Ahmedabad Civil Hospital, its conditions were pathetic and it was as good a dungeon
"It is very distressing to note that most of the patients in the Civil Hospital are dying after four days or more of the treatment. This indicates complete lack of critical care", the court said, urging the state government to increase the number of Covid-19 tests, discarding the submission made by the Advocate General that more Covid-19 tests would mean 70% of the population turning positive, leading to a "fear psychosis".
Later, the state government filed an application stating that the court’s strictures would shake the confidence of common man in the hospital, and would demoralize the medical staff. Claiming that steps had been taken to improve the conditions, the government urged the court to "make few suitable observation so as to inspire confidence in the mind of a common man".
However, taking up the matter on May 25, the court said, it was too early to give certificate as regards Civil Hospital, insisting that an independent committee should inquire into the contents of an anonymous letter sent by a resident doctor of the Civil Hospital regarding the state of affairs there. The bench also said that it might do surprise visits to the hospital.
"We sound a note of caution. The superintendent of the Civil Hospital and other authorities of the Health Department of Gujarat shall keep themselves ready to find our presence one fine morning on a given day in the Civil Hospital. This would put an end to all the controversies with regard to the functioning of the Civil Hospital at Ahmedabad", the bench ordered.
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Click here for list of  "concerned" citizens

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