THE Delhi High Court on May 26 took suo moto cognizance of a video clip showing a man namely – Dharmendra Bhardwaj – struggling to find a hospital bed for his COVID-19 positive mother due to unresponsive helpline numbers.
In his video, Bhardwaj claimed that he visited several hospitals, but to no avail. Importantly, he claims that he called the Helpline No.1075 on several occasions with no response. On one occasion, he was given the number of DSO bearing No.9870552526. He called the said number, but again to no avail. On two other occasions, he was given two other numbers, namely, 011-22307133 and 22307145 respectively, which too were nonresponsive.
A division bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rajnish Bhatnagar while taking suo motu cognizance of the video observed:
“In our view, the aforesaid video recording raises serious issues of public concern in the present day context. A person who, or whose family or friend is found Covid-19 positive, should be able to call the helplines to not only report such occurrence, but to also seek guidance and assistance with regard to the hospitals to which such patient may be taken – if hospitalisation is necessary keeping in view of the condition of the patient. The helplines should render meaningful and effective help to the callers. If the experience of Mr. Dharmendra Bhardwaj is anything to go by, it appears, that this aspect has not been adequately addressed by the respondents”.
The bench ordered that the GNCTD and the Central Government should respond to the grievances narrated by Dharmendra Bhardwaj and to place before it the status with regard to the arrangements made to deal with serious Covid-19 patients, who need hospitalisation.
Further, it directed that the status of functional and responsive helpline numbers being operated by the GNCTD and the Central Government should also be placed before the Court. It asked the GNCTD and the Central Government to assess the adequacy of the helpline capacity and state whether the same is sufficient to deal with the present call traffic and the traffic expected in the foreseeable future, keeping in view the continuous rise in the number of cases being reported each day.
“In our view, the helpline numbers of the GNCTD should also provide guidance and information to the caller as to which hospital has beds available for treatment of serious COVID-19 patients – both in Government and Private Hospitals, particularly in the proximity of the caller patient’s location. The capacity created to deal with calls made on the helpline numbers; the nature of assistance rendered, and; the log maintained for the same, if any, should also be placed before the Court”, the court said.
In addition, the court also asked Delhi Government to consider providing ambulance facility for pickup of COVID-19 serious patients for hospitalisation, once a caller reports a serious COVID-19 case – which appears to require hospitalisation looking to the condition reported.
The court also appointed advocate Om Prakash as the Amicus Curiae to assist the Court. He has been asked to contact Dharmendra Bhadrwaj and, after informing him of court’s order, make an audio recording of his statement with his consent.
“The learned Amicus Curiae shall also call the helpline numbers and shall report with regard to their effectiveness in providing help to the callers. Whatever information/ documents are gathered from Mr. Dharmendra Bhardwaj, and upon calling the helpline numbers, should be placed on record by the learned Amicus Curiae along with his report”, the court directed.
Advocate Rahul Mehra, on behalf of the Delhi Government, told the High Court that the GNCTD has provided 10 helpline numbers, which include the numbers 011-22307133 and 22307145 (which Mr. Dharmendra Bhardwaj dialled), apart from an inter-active number 1031. He submitted that the helpline numbers were found not to be functioning efficiently and instructions had been issued to set the system in order. He added that the same would be done within the next couple of days. He submitted that the helpline number 1075 was managed by the Central Government.
Mehra also informed the court that a mobile application was under development, which would give live updates of the hospital beds available in Delhi Government Hospitals and Private Hospitals, and other related information. He stated that the mobile application would be launched in the next couple of days.
Advocate Kirtiman Singh, on behalf of the Central Government, submitted that number 1075 is an All-India helpline number and about 3 lakh calls have been received on that number.
Read the Order here: