SC won’t interfere in executive decision on COVID-19

NEW DELHI:  The Supreme Court on Friday said it is not in favour of appointing a commission of inquiry into the alleged mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

A bench headed by Justice L. Nageswara Rao noted that there is a worldwide view that judiciary should not interfere in executive decisions in an emergency situation like COVID-19 pandemic.

The top court did not pass any order on the plea seeking an independent inquiry through a commission, headed by retired apex court judge, into alleged gross mismanagement in the COVID-19 pandemic, and adjourned the matter for next week.

The top court queried the petitioners counsel to show it the violation of fundamental right or law. The bench said it cannot pass an order on a roving inquiry, as the petitioners think that the executive action was not satisfactory.

A group of six petitioners, including retired bureaucrats, filed the plea through advocate Prashant Bhushan claiming that Centre’s response to the pandemic and its deleterious impact on the lives and livelihoods of citizens of the country is a definite matter of public concern and warrants appointment of a Commission.

The plea contended that the inquiry is essential with respect to the failure of the Centre to undertake timely and effective measures for containing the transmission of the disease within India even after being notified about it by WHO in early January.

“Failure of the respondent (Centre) to adhere to its statutory obligations under the Disaster Management Act 2005, including constitution of and consultation with advisory committees consisting of experts under Section 7, drawing up a National Plan under Section 11A,” said the plea.

The petitioners contended that the Centre failed to consult the national task force appointed by it on March 18, which consisted of experts in the field of epidemiology and public health prior ahead of the imposition of the nationwide lockdown and its subsequent extensions.

The plea claimed that the lapses on the part of the Centre while dealing with COVID-19 pandemic have led to a severe infraction of the fundamental rights of the people.

“Firstly, the respondent (Centre) failed to nip the problem in the bud by conducting effective screening and surveillance of international passengers coming into India…,” said the plea.

Criticizing the government’s decision to declare a lockdown, the plea said it was “arbitrary, irrational and without due consultation with experts or state governments”.

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