The Delhi government has told the Delhi High Court that there is no reason or lawful justification for the Lieutenant Governor to object to the constitution of a high powered committee (HPC) by the state to probe deaths caused by alleged oxygen shortage during the second wave of COVID-19.
The government said the reasons stated by the LG in his noting dated June 8 for interdicting the constitution of the HPC are “misconceived” and do not withstand the test laid down by the Supreme Court for exercise of power under the proviso to Article 239AA (4).
“In these circumstances, the decision of the answering respondent (Delhi government) to constitute a High Powered Committee has to be considered to be final and binding,” it said in an affidavit filed before a bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Jasmeet Singh.
The court was hearing a plea by Riti Singh Verma, who lost her 34-year-old husband during the second wave of the pandemic in May, seeking direction to the Delhi government to operationalise the HPC and refer her case to the committee and also grant her compensation as per its recommendations.
The woman said her husband was admitted to a private hospital here for treatment of COVID-19 on May 10 and he passed away on May 14 due to cardiac arrest.
The high court granted two weeks to the LG to file reply to the petition and listed the matter for further hearing on September 21.
It is the petitioner’s case that her husband was not suffering from any co-morbidity and the discharge summary does not explain the cause of his death with sufficient particulars and detail and she apprehended that the death of her husband was caused due to negligence of the hospital.
The woman said she got to know about constitution of HPC by the Delhi government with the mandate to examine cases of deaths of persons during the second wave of the pandemic and that the constitution of the committee has been kept in abeyance by the Lieutenant Governor.
She said she is aggrieved by this state of affairs in as much as she is desirous of getting the case of death of her husband examined by the committee of experts.
In response to the petition, the Delhi government said the HPC was constituted on May 27 but the order of its constitution was kept in abeyance on May 31. Thereafter, the Delhi Health Minister decided to revoke the order by which the constitution of the committee was kept in abeyance on June 4.
“The file was sent to the Lieutenant Governor for information in regular course. However, after perusal of the file the LG has expressed a view contrary to that of the minister and stated that the Department should await the outcome of proceedings in the Supreme Court / High Court and the guidelines framed by NDMA in this matter,” it said.
The affidavit further said that the said view is based on a misconception regarding the subject matter of the proceedings pending in the Supreme Court and the function of the HPC constituted by the Delhi government.
Referring to the Supreme Court order, the government said it is evident from the judgment that the top court was concerned with the payment of ex gratia compensation to families of the persons who have died due to the pandemic independent of the reason for cause of death.
“There is no gainsaying that the second wave of the pandemic has wreaked havoc in the lives of the residents of Delhi and resulted in large scale casualties. While there can be no reparation for the loss of a loved one, the attempt of the answering respondent, an elected government responsible to the residents of the NCT, is to provide a means to establishing accountability for the deaths,” the affidavit said.
“In light of the factual background, the clear and indisputable position that emerges is that, there is no reasonable and lawful justification for objecting to the constitution of a HPC in terms of the policy decisions of the GNCTD dated May 27 and June 4 or to prevent its functioning on a war footing at the earliest,” it said.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)