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Not For Court To Render Advice/Directions To Govt About Line Of Treatment For COVID: Delhi HC Dismisses Plea With 25K Cost

In a significant development with far reaching consequences, the Delhi High Court in a brief, bold, brilliant and balanced judgment titled Vivek Sheel Aggarwal & Ors. vs Union of India  & Ors. in W.P. (C) 5510/2021delivered just recently on May 25, 2021 sent out a loud and clear message to one and all by dismissing of a writ plea terming it as ‘Publicity Interest Litigation’  while observing that, “It is not for the Court to render advice much less issue directions to the Government on the line of treatment that is required to be followed for COVID.” What wrong has the Delhi High Court said? Nothing wrong and it has only reiterated ànd is in full consonance  with what recently even a three Judge Bench of Apex Court headed by CJI NV Ramana had said quite explicitly on this key issue! It must be mentioned here that the Bench of Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh of Delhi High Court was hearing a plea that sought modification of the treatment protocol of Covid-19 patients across the country, especially the management of mild cases.
To start with,  the Chief Justice DN Patel who has authored this brief oral judgment fo himself and Justice Jyoti Singh of Delhi High first and foremost sets the. ball rolling by observing right at the outset that, “Proceedings have been conducted through video conferencing.”

CM APPl.17078/2021 (exemptions from filing court fee/attested affidavit)

It must be now stated that the  Bench then adds further that, “For the reasons stated in the application and in view of the present prevailing situation, the present application is allowed. However, the Applicant is directed to file duly signed and affirmed affidavits within a period of one week and the requisite Court fee within a period of 72 hours from the date of resumption of regular functioning of the Court. The application is disposed of.”
W.P.(C) No. 5510/2021
While specifying the purpose behind the writ petition, the Bench then puts forth in para 1 that, “This writ petition has been preferred with the following prayers:
“a) Issue a writ of mandamus to the Respondents directing the Respondents to consider and respond to the representations of the Petitioners dated 29.04.2021, 04.05.2021, 07.05.2021 and 08.05.2021 and to hold a double blind human clinical trial on the “Safety and efficacy of the use of antipyretics in COVID-19 Moralities” forthwith and further to modify the Treatment Protocol of Covid-19 patients across the country especially the management of Mild Cases in the light of the hypothesis of the Petitioners, if the  course suggested by the Petitioners, are found in order;
b) Issue a writ of mandamus directing the Respondents to lay down protocols against use of antibiotics and steroids in the treatment of mild cases of Covid-19;
c) Pass any other or further order as may be deemed fit on the facts and circumstances of the present case.””
Quite clearly, the Bench then observes in para 2 that, “Having heard the learned counsel for the Petitioners and looking to the facts and circumstances of the case, we see no reason to entertain this writ petition.”
To put things in perspective, the Bench then observes in para 3 that, “Much has been argued by the learned senior counsel appearing for the Petitioners regarding the need to modify the treatment protocol of Covid-19 patients across the country, especially the management of mild cases in the light of hypothesis of the Petitioners. It is argued that the. suggested protocol of treatment by the Petitioners was brought to the notice of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare by representation dated 29.04.2021 followed  by reminders. The suggested regime of treatment by the Petitioners which aims at reducing use of antibiotics and antipyretics is supported by International Research Papers and opinion of Experts globally as well as Virologist and Doctors from across the world. Learned senior counsel places reliance on some Research Papers and medical literature placed on record and annexed to the writ petition. The treatment protocol adopted in California for Covid-19 patients including the dosage is also highlighted through a Research Paper.”
Most remarkably, the Bench then minces no words to hold in para 4 that, “While the object of the Petitioners may be laudable but we cannot lose sight of the fact that treatment protocol for Covid-19 patients in India has been devised by the experts in the field, after discussions, suggestions, trials and based on sound medical knowledge in this field and the Court cannot readily accept the ipse Dixit of the Petitioners based on some Research Papers. Treatment protocol of Covid-19 patients in India which includes administering medicines, injections etc. is a complex procedure and Court is not equipped with the necessary expertise or medical knowhow to even direct the Government to substitute one protocol with another. Respondents have experts/multi-member committees for deciding the treatment protocol for Covid-19 patients in India and a team of experts is taking decisions based on verified data and trials. This cannot be altered or even interfered with by this Court.”
Adding more to what is stated above, the Bench then observes in para 5 that, “While exercising powers under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, if this Court were to entertain petitions of this nature, there would be a floodgate of petitions where every petitioner would seek the relief of directing the Government to abide by his or her suggestions on a certain protocol and line of treatment. It is not for the Court to render advice much less issue directions to the Government on the line of treatment that is required to be followed, as we are sanguine that the Departments concerned have the assistance of able and competent Doctors, Scientists and Researchers in the field, to assist in devising or improving the protocols.”
Furthermore, the Bench then also observes in para 6 that, “Learned senior counsel, at this stage, seeks a direction to the Respondents to dispose of the representations pending before them and look into the suggestion s given. We see no reason to give any such direction to the Respondents to decide the representations of the Petitioners for modification/ change of the treatment protocol. It is a matter of common knowledge that the officials in various Departments concerned with the
Pandemic are already overburdened in handling the crisis of the Pandemic and they ought to be left to handle patients, their treatment and connected issues, rather than deciding representations of the Petitioners. In fact Respondents No. 2 and 3 are at present handling an additional crisis on account of a newly emerging infection i.e. Mucormycosis and have their hands full.”
As a corollary, the Bench then pronounced in para 7 that, “In view of the above, we see no reason to entertain this Public Interest Litigation, which is more in the nature of publicity interest litigation.”
As we see, the Bench then holds in para 8 that, “We, therefore, dismiss this writ petition with costs of Rs. 25,000/- (Rupees twenty five thousand only) to be paid by the Petitioners to the Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DSLSA) within four weeks from today. The aforesaid amount shall be utilized for the programme ‘Access to Justice’.”
Finally, the Bench then holds in para 9 that, “A copy of this order be sent to the Member Secretary, Delhi State Legal Services Authority,  Central Office, Patiala House Courts Complex, New Delhi – 110001.”
In essence, the Delhi High Court makes it pretty clear that it is not for the Court to render advice/directions to government about the line of treatment for COVID. It also termed the Writ Plea as ‘Publicity Interest Litigation ‘. It is really good to see that Delhi High  Court drew red lines for itself and did not hesitate to dismiss the writ plea with Rs 25,000 as costs imposed by the Court on the petitioners! It is worth emulating by all courts in similar such cases!
Sanjeev Sirohi

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