The Calcutta High Court on Wednesday passed several notable interim directions for the administration of Andaman & Nicobar Island in order to ensure amelioration of COVID19 in the islands.
A division bench comprising Chief Justice T B N Radhakrishnan and Justice Dipankar Datta took suo motu cognizance of a letter dated March 27, 2020 by an Advocate Mr. D.C. Kabir which expressed deep concern at the possible spread of infection in the islands if urgent measures were not taken at the earliest.
In light of the above, a Monitoring Committee (MC) was also constituted on March 28, 2020 in order to closely monitor the situation, following which the UT Administration filed a status report.
On Wednesday, the bench noted that even though it is satisfied by efforts of the administration to tackle the crisis, interim directions in order to "supplement and complement the executive in times of dire need" were required so as "to minimize the anxiety and agony of the islanders".
"In an unprecedented situation such as the present one ~ which though is yet not comparable with the devastation brought about by the tsunami that rattled the islands on a winter morning of December, 2004 ~ each one of us, whether it be the executive, the judiciary or the civil society, have to work hand in hand to avert any further disaster, which might spell doom for the islands. It cannot be overemphasized that only a united effort can ensure tackling of the myriad problems arising from different quarters because of the spread of the virus. To that end, we must secure our means." – the bench noted.
Inter alia, following directions were passed:-
1) Social Distancing Non Negotiable: Administration must ensure there is no slip till April 14, 2020;
2) Endeavour to provide home delivery of medicines & essentials to public must continue & shops must be allowed to open restrictedly where delivery not possible;
3) Concerned authorities must ensure supply of drinking water;
4) Ensure access of LPG to households;
5) Transportation of perishables from Shaheed dweep must be expedited, lest they rot;
6) Collection of milk and milk product from Port Blair by adequate hands;
7) Helicopter and shipping services should be utilized only for essential services;
8) Supply of Personal Protective Equipment for those at frontline;
9) Maintenance of hygiene at hospitals, nursing homes etc.;
10) Concern expressed by members expressed of the staff must be taken into account and remedial action must be taken;
11) Adequate care must be taken towards caring for senior citizens;
12) Ensure that there is no spread of the virus amongst the vulnerable local indigenous communities, like the Jarawas, the Onges, the Shompens and the like;
13) Local authorities may not ignore the need to clear waste and garbage;
14) Adequate sanitizing of public places at regular intervals;
15) Banks & financial institutions must be kept open with restricted access;
16) Uninterrupted Internet access must be ensured keeping in mind that accessibility to Internet is the facet of right to life;
17) Humane approach by police, even though they are stressed, while dealing with members of the public;
18) Adequate care of hundreds of migrant workers at Port Blair by accommodating them in temporary shelter homes and by making provisions for their basic needs;
19) Centre must extend its fullest cooperation to prevent any loss of life in the islands, either due to the disease or starvation.
Apropos this, the bench further directed that further reports on the status of relief & services extended to the islanders must be forwarded to the bench through Registrar General by April 7, 2020.
Advocate D.C. Kabir appeared as petitioner-in-person. Additional Solicitor General ANS Nadkarni appeared for the Union Of India & the UT Administration along with Advocates G. Indira, K.V. Jagadishvaran & Santosh & Mr. S.K.K De Secretary, (Law) UT Administration
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