Setting up a judicial commission to inquire into oxygen shortage deaths is among a slew of suggestions made by petitioners in a group of PILs pertaining to Covid-19 management in Goa. The High Court of Bombay at Goa had asked the petitioners to submit their consolidated suggestions to the court for finding solutions to various issues in the wake of the pandemic that has so far claimed 2,937 lives in India’s smallest state.
Suggestions were made by petitioners in eight cases before the court. The South Goa Advocates Association (SGAA), one of the petitioners, said in one of its suggestions that some Covid-19 patients had lost their lives only due to oxygen shortage. It said some of them were breadwinners, and that there were children who had lost both parents. These families, the SGAA said, need to be identified and compensated.
“Accordingly, it is proposed that this Hon’ble Court may setup an inquiry commission headed by a retired judge of this Hon’ble Court along with a Judicial Magistrate First Class, two independent doctors, a police officer of the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police and other necessary members along with staff…”
The SGAA suggested that the commission should not only trace the victims and the dependents but also determine the amount of compensation to be paid to the dependents. It said that this commission should also be tasked with identifying negligence on part of government officials, if any, that led to the shortage of oxygen supply in the state at the peak of the second wave in May.
Goa health minister Vishwajit Rane had stirred up a storm when he claimed on May 11 that 26 people had died in the early hours of that day in Goa Medical College (GMC) and Hospital due to a drop in oxygen levels and sought a High Court inquiry into the matter. The High Court, which was already hearing a bunch of PILs related to Covid-19, had asked the state government to immediately address oxygen shortage in GMC after which its system of tractor-towed oxygen trolleys was replaced by a 20,000-litre Liquid Medical Oxygen tank that was installed at GMC. The acting dean of GMC S M Bandekar had said that there was no correlation between the drop in oxygen levels and deaths of Covid-19 patients.
The SGAA also suggested that the state government should set up a committee comprising of professionals like doctors and statisticians to carry out a complete audit of the COVID-19 deaths in the State of Goa.
“Such an audit will not only reveal the exact number of COVID-19 deaths but also serve help the concerned authorities to save lives during the impending third wave of COVID-19,” the SGAA submitted to the court on Monday.
Lawyers Akash Rebello, Rui Gomes Pereira and Varun Bhandanker suggested, in a PIL filed by activist Armando Gonsalves, that the state government must insist on RT-PCR negative test report for its greater accuracy over other tests. The Goa government had recently clarified that the negative test report required to enter Goa could be that of tests including the rapid antigen test and not necessarily RT-PCR.
The state government is expected to file its reply to the 30-page chart of suggestions made by the petitioners. The court will hear the case further on June 17.