The Delhi High Court on Thursday, November 19, pulled up the Delhi government for its delayed response in controlling the spike in COVID cases in the national capital and asked why it was waiting for the court's order to cut down the number of attendees at weddings.
A bench of Justice Hima Kohli and Justice Subramonium Prasad said that the Delhi government cannot accuse the Centre of non-cooperation and that both the authorities "should put their heads together to tackle the situation".
The court said that the situation has deteriorated in the last 18 days and it was only after the High Court pulled up the Delhi government that it set things in motion.
"Why did not you wake early? The alarm bells should have rung loud in your head. Why did you wait for a court's direction to reduce the number of people? The city is reeling and you allowed transport in full capacity. Tell us the rational object behind this decision. Why didn't you wake up even after the situation worsened since November 1?" the HC asked.
"You were shaken out of slumber, you turned turtle after we asked questions. Do you know about the number of lives that has been lost in the last 18 days? Yesterday there were 134 deaths in a single day and the government is claiming that you were alive to the situation. The ground is full of dead bodies. Why were you have to look at the Centre and the Lieutenant Governor (L-G) for directions," the bench said.
The comments surfaced when the court was hearing a plea by advocate Rakesh Malhotra seeking directions to the Delhi government to increase testing in the national capital.
On Thursday, senior advocate Sandeep Sethi, appearing for the Delhi government, told the court that they have decreased the number of people attending weddings and also said that people are being fined for not wearing masks or not maintaining social distancing.
However, the court said that fining people is not acting as a deterrent and people who have not come out their houses have also been infected with the virus.
Pointing to the increasing number of deaths in the national capital due to Coronavirus, Justice Kohli asked the Delhi government to show the steps they are practising to ensure adequate facilities for victims of the virus at crematorium grounds.
"What steps are you taking to manage the crematorium grounds? They are overflowing and funeral pyres are working throughout the night….Considering the steep rise in the death rates in the last 14 days, the Delhi government is directed to indicate the steps it has taken for adequate arrangements for those who have lost their lives to Covid-19," the court asked.
The court also noted that only about 50% RT-PCR tests have been conducted as against over 2 lakh rapid antigen tests between November 9 and November 17, ordering that testing via RT-PCR should be ramped up.
The high court also said that the Delhi government is not conducting the fifth sero-survelliance stating that the third wave of COVID-19 is still in progress, even though the government told the media that the third wave has already peaked in the national capital.
"The Delhi government has informed us that the fifth sero survey has not taken place because the city is reeling under the third wave. However, statements have made to the press where the government has stated that the third wave has already peaked even though it has not been reflected in the ground situation," the Delhi HC said.
When additional standing counsel of the Delhi government Satyakam objected and urged the court not to take note of anything that has been published in the press, the court said, "Why would not we take this? We can take judicial note of the statements made by your ministers in the court. If you retract from whatever you have said in the media, I would remove it."
During the hearing, the court was told that the government would add 663 ICU beds (both ventilator and non-ventilator) to the existing number of 1,167 ICU beds in government hospitals and about 750 ICU beds are being added after assistance from the Centre.
The court ordered that the ICU beds in the government hospitals should be made functional within the coming one week.
"You had very well anticipated the situation because you had passed the September 12 order (reserving 80% ICU beds in the city). The cold wave along with the pollution during the winter months is a cocktail of death for the citizens, especially those who have breathing issues," the court said.