Delhi HC: State has failed to protect most basic fundamental right…the right to life’

THE DELHI High Court on Friday said the State has failed to protect the most fundamental of rights — the right to life — after it was informed of the death of a person who had petitioned the court for an ICU bed.

The court expressed its anguish when, in the midst of the day’s hearing, advocate Amit Sharma said, “My lord, my brother-in-law has expired. No more efforts should be made. I have completely failed. So grateful to you.”

At this, the division bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli said, “No. The State has failed. We have failed. We all have failed.”

The court later recorded in the order, “During the course of hearing, Mr Amit Sharma has informed that Atul Kumar Sharma has expired. We may at this stage record our complete helplessness with the situation. We can only say that the State has failed in performing its fundamental obligation of protecting the most basic fundamental right, that is right to life contained under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.”

As Sharma broke the news, the virtual courtroom was engulfed in silence. Only minutes ago, the court had heard Sharma’s request for help for his brother-in-law.

“May I request all my senior advocates who are here… if they can help me because the oxygen level of my brother-in-law has gone down to 68…,” Sharma told the court. “By tomorrow he may not be there in the world. I have very limited time.”

Sharma had been appearing frequently before the court for the past few days, seeking its intervention for his brother-in-law, who remained in the emergency room of Maharaja Agrasen Hospital, but could not be provided any ICU bed since there was none vacant. “I have no other option than to beg everyone,” Sharma had told the court on Thursday.

On Friday, the court requested the lawyers, including Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma, to make efforts in this regard. Chetan Sharma told the court that a bed had become available on Thursday at Safdarjung Hospital, but it was not possible to shift the patient there given his serious condition and, in the meantime, the bed was provided to some other serious patient.

On the allocation of medical oxygen to Delhi, the division bench earlier told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta: “Everyday people are dying. We are quite fed up with hearing everyday SOS calls from so many hospitals, nursing homes. It is really straining the whole city.”

After Mehta’s request for time, the court said it will deal with the issue of allocation on Monday.

While hearing a petition filed by the Bar Council of Delhi, the court earlier in the day also said that it is a “complete failure of the State” that everything, including medical oxygen and hospital beds, is in short supply. “It is a war and it would be wrong to call it a battle,” said the court on the ongoing Covid-19 situation in the country.

Without referring to any particular government, the division bench observed that the country is witnessing a huge surge of Covid-19, which has impacted the entire medical system. “Nobody could have imagined it would attack us this way,” said the court.

On the crisis of infrastructure, the court said, “There is such a great dearth of oxygen that hospitals that have beds have stopped admissions because they are unable to service the patients. Doctors are breaking down, crying.”

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