New Delhi, Aug 12 The Supreme Court is likely to hear on Friday a plea seeking an independent inquiry through a commission headed by a retired apex court judge into the alleged gross mismanagement of the Covid-19 pandemic.
A group of six petitioners, including retired bureaucrats, filed the plea through advocate Prashant Bhushan, claiming that the 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 the appointment of a commission.
A bench headed by Justice L. Nageswara Rao is likely to take up the matter on Friday. The plea contended that the inquiry is essential with respect to the failure of the Centre to undertake timely and effective measures to contain the transmission of the disease within India even after being notified about it by the 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, and 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 to 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 the 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.
The petitioners argued that the imposition of the lockdown and the manner in which it was implemented has had a devastating impact on jobs, livelihoods and the overall economy.
"Nearly 6 crore people between the age group of 20 and 39 years had lost their jobs in April itself and the livelihood of 40 million migrant workers were abruptly disrupted," said the plea.
Criticising the government's decision to declare a lockdown, the plea said that it was "arbitrary, irrational and without due consultation with experts or state governments".
The plea also cited the "exodus" of migrant workers and daily wagers to their native hometowns during the lockdown, and also highlighted the delay in adequate supplies of PPE kits for safety of healthcare workers.
( With inputs from IANS )