THE Calcutta High Court on April 28 while directing the state government and the central government to file an affidavit disclosing the availability and utilization of the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and also testing facilities in terms of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) guidelines in the State, observed that “responsible journalism excludes irresponsible reports by anyone involved in the print or audio-visual media”. It urged the journalists to report about orders of the Court only after referring the uploaded true copies of the official order in the Court website.
“Obviously, therefore, we expect those in need of information about the contents of this Court’s orders, to access the High Court website and dissuade themselves from propagating or publicizing the orders to champion the cause of anybody concerned”, the court said.
The court was hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Dr Fuad Halim and others raising critical questions about the management and response of the Covid-19 crisis in the State of West Bengal especially regarding the availability PPE for doctors and care workers and the testing capacity of the state.
The Advocate General of the West Bengal contended that the petition was in fact “publicity oriented litigation”. The Advocate General added that the Petitioner happened to use litigation to “publicize his political identity and to also encash it for enhancing his popularity in public domain”. The State presented quotes from certain discussions through certain Bengali Audio Visual channels wherein the Petitioner participated to establish the contention that the Petition sought publicity out of the litigation.
The High Court referred to its earlier orders by which the petition should be treated as a non-adversarial one. Also, the Advocate General “shall assist the Court in being able to reach the goals which may be required to be addressed on further due process of the writ petition”.
The Court further observed that the repeated complaint against the inadequate testing capacity for Covid-19 is essentially a matter of governance and ultimately left to the government and not for judicial review. However, the judiciary may intervene in the matter if it becomes imminently necessary in a situation.
A division bench of Chief Justice Thottathil B. Radhakrishnan and Justice Arijit Banerjee said “Since it is a matter of information and in public domain that West Bengal has lost two (2) doctors, stated to be due to Covid-19, we require learned Advocate General to ascertain the availability of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) sufficient enough to be provided to all who could be called front line worriers which includes doctors, para medics, ground staff, support staff and those dealing with medical institutions and also other areas where PPE usage ought to be the norm. The Union of India is also require to respond as to its view on the management of Covid-19 in the State of West Bengal”.
The Court maintained that the matter should be proceeded with ultimately for the interest of the larger public in a collective sense and for a citizen in the individual sense and not intended to be made a platform for publicity either.
Read the Order here: