Kolkata, April 18 (IANS) The Calcutta High Court has asked the West Bengal government to give a deeper look into the requirement for conducting more tests “on war footing” to detect the coronavirus infection and ordered that the guidelines laid down by the World Health Organization (WHO) and Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) be followed by all stake holders including the state administration.
“We are of the view that WHO and ICMR being expert authorities in the field, their guidelines and advisories are required to be followed by all stakeholders including the state administration and we are sure the same shall be done,” the high court division bench of Chief Justice Thottathil B Radhakrishnan and Justice Arijit Banerjee said in its order.
The court order followed a series of Public Interest Litigations (PILs) filed before it seeking directions for more testing, ensuring security of medical professionals, as also against the state government constituting an audit committee to take the final call on whether a coronavirus positive person died of COVID-19 or due to other comorbidities.
“We are of the view that it is necessary that the official respondents give a deeper look to the requirement of more number of samples being collected and subjected to tests on war footing,” the bench said.
The state government in its response said 300 samples were being tested daily in five government and two private laboratories, and the number would go up in the days ahead with the addition of some more facilities which are being developed.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader and physician Fuad Halim filed the petition, while Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Ritesh Tewari and some others got involved in the PIL through a letter.
The judges did not agree with the state government’s submission that the PIL be thrown out as it was filed with “political intent”.
“This is not an occasion or time for us to consider the maintainability of this writ petition and this is not a matter which should be thrown out at the threshold”, the bench said.
“We may here and now note that the virus which has now been named as COVID-19 makes no distinction on the basis of caste, creed, colour, sex, religion, domicile or geographical identity to affect any person in any economic strata. Therefore, we are of theA view that the identifying characteristic to consider whether there is public interest in this litigation need not presently stall further proceedings in the matter,” it said.
The court refused to say anything on the petitioners’ criticism about the state forming the death audit committee but said it “expects the state government to place their response in this regard with the views of the health personnel concerned”.
The Court ordered the state government to file an affidavit on the issues referred to by the petitioners including on the compliance of WHO and ICMR guidelines on the pandemic.
The matter will again be heard on April 23.