The Meghalaya High Court on Thursday directed the state authorities to register cases against any person, local body/Durbar Shnong or organization which obstructs them in the control of COVID19 pandemic.
“That the state authorities to take stern action for enforcement of the Rule of Law, especially in the light of the said incidents on April 15, 2020 wherein public had broken the curfew and all social distancing norms, in coming out in protest against the proposed cremation,” the court order said.
The High Court issued the order after hearing a PIL filed by the Meghalaya High Court Bar Association on Thursday.
The PIL questioned the events that led to the gathering of a crowd at the crematorium at Barapathar that resulted in the body of Dr John L Sailo Ryntathiang not being allowed to be cremated citing that the fumes could cause the virus to spread in the surrounding areas.
Dr. Sailo Rynthathiang, the director of Bethany Hospital in Shillong and first COVID19 positive case in Meghalaya, passed away at 2.45 am on Wednesday due to medical complications after infection.
The PIL also sought effective monitoring of the measures undertaken by the state government to contain the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak and to mitigate the plight of the citizens of Meghalaya.
In its judgement, the two-member Bench of judges W. Diengdoh and H.S. Thangkhiew said: “That any person, local body/Durbar Shnong or organization which obstructs the State authorities in the control of the pandemic or any matter connected thereto, such as dead body management, cremation and burial shall be dealt with in accordance with law and cases to be registered under appropriate provisions of law.”
The court also directed the state health authorities to “immediately ensure the testing of the primary contacts and also in the event, the same is not possible to be conducted immediately, to place the persons who have voluntarily come forward in quarantine, till such test has been conducted and to render adequate assistance as required”.
The state authorities have also been asked to “ensure that adequate assistance is rendered to the patients who are stranded in Bethany Hospital and also who are housed in the other quarantine facility”
The authorities have also been asked to make “adequate food and water” available for which “the help of the civil society can also be availed to procure the same for distribution”.
The state authorities have been ordered to ensure that “personnel are available with adequate personal protection to receive the food packets for distribution to the inmates”.
The court also directed the state authorities to “strictly follow the guidelines on dead body management as prescribed by the Government of India and by the World Health Organization” such as the supply of PPEs to the staff, apart from “notifying the same for the information of the general public for their sensitization”.
The state authorities have been directed to sensitize the public especially where the cremation of burial grounds are situated to avoid any further unfortunate incident as witnessed on April 15, 2020.
The state authorities have also been directed to “adhere to the procedure of handling COVID-19 suspects and infected cases as contained in the protocol” issued on March 25, 2020.
The case has been listed on April 21, 2020 for the response by the petitioners on the status report and for further orders.PIL No. 4 of 2020