New Delhi, May 19: Politicians and bureaucrats find it very difficult to accept their failure and inability as it is not in their veins, the Delhi High Court said on Wednesday while expressing concerns over the condition of subordinate judiciary’s judicial officers who are at risk of contracting COVID-19 owing to the nature of their duties.
The high court said three judicial officers have already died after contracting the virus in the national capital and it was of the prima facie view that they should be treated akin to frontline workers like armed forces and police forces personnel and asked the government to consider it.
“In Supreme Court and High Court, we hold constitutional positions. Our protocols are different but that is not the case of subordinate judiciary. The judicial officers' exposure is different and you should take steps for good reasons. You examine it and then decide,” a bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Jasmeet Singh said.
The bench was not impressed with the submissions of the Delhi Government that high court had earlier passed an order by which the Delhi district judges were to coordinate with district magistrates to address the medical concerns of judicial officers and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic and nodal officers were appointed in each district.
The bench said, “let us not get into this. That has not delivered. They are here because it didn’t bring about any satisfactory results. It is very difficult for bureaucracy and political leaders to accept their failure or inability. They will never accept their failure. This is not in their veins.”
It said the system has to be put in place now and can’t wait for the crisis to arise and have to be prepared for the worst as nobody knows how the situation would be in the future.
The bench observed that judicial officers are working and exposing themselves to the risk in the same way that armed forces and police forces were doing.
"We have lost three judicial officers already. Look at the number of judicial officers and their families being infected, it’s staggering. Because of the nature of their job, they have to expose themselves so we need to protect them."
“You don’t expect a judge to discharge his duty when his son, daughter, wife or any other family member is seriously ill. Take steps on your own, you (government) don’t need to wait for orders on this,” it said.
The court noted the submissions of senior advocate Rahul Mehra, representing Delhi government, that the state shall consider whether judicial officers rendering services to keep the wheels of justice moving and are exposed to the risk of COVID-19 on account of the nature of their duties can be declared as “frontline workers”.
The counsel also said that the Delhi Judicial Services Association, which has filed an application raising certain issues including that facilities on ground are an eyewash, may submit the representation to the Delhi Chief Secretary who shall consider it and also convene a virtual meeting with the members of the association.
Taking the statement of Mehra on record, the court said, “Let the Delhi government address these issues and a status report be filed. List it on May 27.”
The application by the association was filed in a pending petition by a group of lawyers, including Shobha Gupta and Rajesh Sachdeva, seeking a coordination mechanism for judicial officers. They were unable to get COVID-19 medical treatment and beds in hospitals.
Senior advocate Dayan Krishnan, representing the association, said ithe district nodal officers facility is not working in case of emergency and there is a need for a centralised nodal officer of Delhi government.
He also said there is a need to attach COVID care facilities to hospitals and added that as of now 852 judicial officers and staff have been infected with the virus.
Delhi government standing counsel Santosh Kumar Tripathi submitted the high court had earlier passed an order by which the Delhi district judges were to coordinate with district magistrates to address the medical concerns of judicial officers and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic and nodal officers were appointed in each district.
During the hearing, Mehra conceded that it’s a very serious issue raised in the plea and the COVID care centres are equal to home isolation beds and not for moderate to severe patients and stressed on the need for vaccination.
“Until and unless everyone is safe, none are safe,” he said, adding that the next wave could be coming from Singapore or some other country.
To this, the bench said, there is no wave from Singapore and “we don’t need any other country, we have our own variants.”
Mehra replied the second variant was from India only.
He said there is a need to declare officers of the courts as frontline persons and it is important to protect and save the members of the institution and vaccination process of judicial officers, their families and staff should be prioritized.
The court also said like Delhi government’s officials, judicial officers can also be provided with proper facilities as they are also performing an important duty.
The petition said, “the petitioners are specifically concerned about the health and life of the judicial officers in Delhi. The judicial officers in Delhi in order to maintain law and order and ensure speedy and effective delivery of justice resumed physical hearings in Courts. It is pertinent to mentioned that due to nature of work in courts, COVID protocol is not being followed in courts and judicial officers are exposed immensely.”