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SC Shoots Down Plea to Inquire Into Alleged Mismanagement by Govt in Handling Covid-19

Representative image.

Representative image.

As advocate Prashant Bhushan claimed that the government failed on each and every front, the bench replied that everyone is entitled to an opinion, especially in matters where the actions of the executive are involved, but that does not command an intervention by the court.

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Utkarsh Anand

The Supreme Court on Thursday refused to entertain a PIL for Commission of Inquiry into alleged mismanagement of the Covid-19 pandemic by the central government, observing this can be a matter of public debate but not for judicial review.

A bench led by Justice L Nageswara Rao dismissed the petition filed jointly by five retired bureaucrats, who cited several instances to show alleged lapses by the government in dealing with the health emergency situation.

As advocate Prashant Bhushan claimed that the government failed on each and every front, the bench replied that everyone is entitled to an opinion, especially in matters where the actions of the executive are involved, but that does not command an intervention by the court.

“What you are saying can be a matter of public debate but it is not for this court to intervene. Some latitude has to be given to the government in situations like these, especially when issues relating to health are involved,” said Justice Rao.

Bhushan, on his part, emphasised that around 2 crore salaried jobs have been lost, migrants were made to walk on foot for hundreds of kilometres and even the healthcare professionals were not given PPE kits and other safety gears.

But the bench was emphatic that these were not the matters warranting an interference by the court: “In matters like these, you and I cannot agree and will have different opinions. Such a situation was unforeseeable six months back. Who knew six months back about Covid-19 situations? We cannot entertain this petition.”

The plea, which had retired IFS officer KP Fabian and retired IAS Madhu Bhaduri, had asked for setting up a Commission of Inquiry to probe the alleged gross mismanagement on part of the government in handling the pandemic in the country.

The petition had alleged that the government failed on many counts, which resulted in depriving citizens of their right to life and livelihood. It added that the government failed to take timely and effective measures to contain the transmission of the disease despite getting notification of the disease from the World Health Organization (WHO) in January 2020. This began with a failure to screen all international passengers arriving in India, according to the petition.

The plea further claimed that timely and targeted provisions were not made to prevent job loss, income loss, deprivation of livelihood, starvation and exodus of migrant workers.


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