New Delhi: The Delhi High Court is mulling switching to fans from centralised air conditioners as there is every likelihood that if a COVID-19 infected person enters the AC area, the particles of virus exhaled by him may remain there and infect others.
A committee, constituted by the high court and comprising its four judges, is holding deliberations on a 'graded action plan' to meet the challenges likely to be faced by it and the trial courts once they commence normal functioning after the withdrawal of lockdown.
The committee, headed by Justice Hima Kohli, was briefed by the officials of the Public Works Department on whether centralised AC plant can run in the high court buildings post-lockdown and the steps to be taken so that the circulated air does not become a reason for the spread of coronavirus.
The committee's minutes of the meeting, held on April 28, said according to the inputs and report by PWD officials, even if the high court incurs massive expenditure on procuring and installing Ultra Violet Germicide Irradiation devices, there would not be complete certainty of eradication of all the virus, germs and particles including COVID-19.
The committee, also comprising justices Vipin Sanghi, Rajiv Shakdher and Talwant Singh, was apprised by the PWD engineers that such a device can only disinfect the air received in AHU for re-circulation and if any COVID-19 infected person enters the area having central air conditioning, there is still every likelihood that the particles of such virus, exhaled by such person, may remain airborne and may, in turn, infect others.
The minutes record, It has been informed by them that even in the Supreme Court, the central air-conditioning system has not been switched on so far and, therefore, they suggest that instead of investing huge amount in procuring these devices, whose utility is still not amply clear, the court may rather procure sufficient quantity of pedestal fans/wall fans and to install them at appropriate places in all the (building) blocks.
The engineers informed the committee that they would try to find out whether previously installed hooks, meant for ceiling fans, are still available so that they can be re-installed.
Let PWD conduct a survey in this regard and submit a proposal regarding the required quantity of all such types of fans in every block. Since the windows and doors of the court building may be required to be left open for proper circulation of air during the working hours, PWD shall ensure that all such windows have proper net/mesh so that no insects/mosquitoes etc. enter inside the court building, the committee resolved.
The committee has directed the registrar general to get in touch with the Director General of Health Services and Chief Medical Officer and to apprise it about the possibility of conducting pool-testing for COVID-19 for staff and visitors.
Following the lockdown, the functioning of the high court and trial courts have been suspended till May 3 and matters of extreme urgency or urgent nature are being heard through video conferencing.
The committee was set up for preparation of such a graded action plan for the high court and trial courts for which several issues are required to be addressed, including gradual expansion of the nature of cases to be put in 'urgent' category for hearing, ensuring availability of proportionate court infrastructure during all these phases till restoration of complete normalcy.
The other issues highlighted by the high court while setting up the committee are making guidelines for restricting entry into courts and social distancing norms to be followed in the court complexes for all the stakeholders including Judges, court staff, lawyers and litigants, preparing guidelines for restricting entry into lawyers' chamber areas in the court complex and social distancing norms to be followed in such areas.
Running of public utility services and canteen etc. in court complexes. Availability of Infrared Thermometer, Masks, gloves, sanitizers for all the stakeholders. Installation of sensor-based devices, wherever possible to ensure minimum hand-contact. Appropriate alternate to centralised air-conditioning system, the high court's earlier letter stated.
Further issues to be discussed include putting in place a mechanism for handling the deluge of fresh filing of cases once the suspension of functioning of courts is withdrawn, creation of well-equipped permanent video conferencing courts.