‘What has Centre been doing for past 14 months?’: Madras HC says COVID situation dire despite year of lockdown

‘All that you are showing is that things will be hunky-dory in June. Did they (Centre) consult experts? We are all depending on chance, without doing anything,’ Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee observed

Madras High Court
Madras High Court

NH Web Desk

The Chief Justice of Madras High Court, Sanjib Banerjee, on Thursday questioned the Central government on why it had let its guard down in managing the COVID-19 pandemic, and went on to comment that the situation continues to be dire despite a year of lockdown.

The oral observations came during the fag end of the hearing in the suo moto case registered by the Madras High Court to check on the COVID-19 management in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry.

During the course of making submissions on the supply of Remdesivir, the court quizzed Additional Solicitor General R Sankaranarayanan on why all his submissions focused on the situation getting better in June, whereas measures were required now, Bar & Bench reported.

When the ASG observed that the recent surge of COVID-19 was not expected, the Chief Justice responded by asking what the government has been doing for the past 14 months.

"All that you are showing is that things will be hunky-dory in June... Did they (Centre) consult experts? ... All that we see here is that 'June it will be better'... we are all depending on chance, without doing anything," he observed.

When the ASG said that a team of experts are looking into the aspect of whether further COVID-19 surges should be expected, the Chief Justice went on to comment, "I have not met any respectable doctor who had advised the guard to be dropped over the last few months... Even if doctors have not advised, who are the experts Centre has been consulting? We are in this state of absolute despair despite having lockdown for most of last year!"

The court further pointed out that there are more recent concerns as well, over the pricing of COVID-19 vaccinations, particularly for the 18-45 years age group, the mad rush for the vaccines and the COWIN website crashing.

The ASG assured that he will obtain instructions in the matter tomorrow. The court, in turn, cautioned that all these aspects have to be dealt with in a planned manner, and not on ad-hoc basis.

"There cannot be an ad hocism about that ... We do not mean any disrespect, (but) we had to go in a planned, informed manner after consulting experts, not ad hocism", the Chief Justice said.

The matter will be taken up again on Friday, when the court is expected to hear submissions on aspects such as COVID-19 protocol on the May 2 vote-counting day, shortage of hospital beds, Remdesivir supply, oxygen supply, ventilators and COVID-19 checks at state borders.

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