The Supreme Court on Friday called patient care during the Covid-19 pandemic in Delhi "horrendous" and "pathetic", and sought explanation from the NCT government in five days.
A bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan minced no words in also reproaching the Arvind Kejriwal government for handling of dead bodies in its hospitals, regretting this as a "very sorry state of affairs".
The bench, also including Justices Sanjay K Kaul and MR Shah, was hearing a suo motu matter relating to treatment of Covid-19 patients in state-run hospitals and handling of dead bodies when it took a grim view of the situation in the national capital.
It cited various media reports on how dead bodies are lying with the patients with nobody to take care of either the living ones or the dead.
When Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that showing no respect to a dead body is also an offence under the Indian Penal Code, the bench asked him as well as the Delhi government counsel: "What have you done despite knowing all this?"
It added: "Patients are crying in pain and there is nobody to attend to them. One video from LNJP hospital showed how badly the dead bodies are being treated. There is absolutely no respect for the dead bodies too."
It regretted that in some cases, families of those deceased aren't even informed about the deaths and last rites also happen with no information to them.
"This is a very sorry state of affairs. There is no adherence to the Central government's guidelines either. Hospitals are not giving due care to the dead bodies," the bench recorded in its order.
The court dubbed the situation as "horrific" and noted that more than 2,500 beds are vacant in the Delhi government's hospitals because nobody wants to go there.
"If this is how patients are treated in your hospitals, why will anybody want to go to your hospital? You have more than 2000 beds vacant… this is why," the bench told Delhi government lawyer Chirag M Shroff. It said patients are in a pathetic condition in the hospitals and the Supreme Court is pained at it.
The bench also questioned why the Delhi government has reduced the testing capacity while other states are working to ramp it up.
"Why has the testing gone down in Delhi while it has increased in other states such as Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu? Do you want artificial figures? Not testing cannot be the solution. Increasing the testing capacity is the duty of every state," said the top court.
It then directed the Delhi government to increase the testing capacity and ensure nobody who wants to be tested for Covid-19 is denied the facility.
The court then issued a formal notice to the Delhi government, seeking explanations on all three aspects of treatment of patients, handling of dead bodies as well as increasing the testing capacity.
Considering the spike in coronavirus cases in Maharashtra, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu, the bench further issued notices to their chief secretaries with a direction to bring on record relevant statistics on patient management system, number of patients, availability of beds, doctors etc.
The court sought a response from the central government as well on these issues. The matter will be heard next on Wednesday.