New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Wednesday expressed its anguish over the poor management of mortuaries in government hospitals in the national capital saying "we do not respect the living nor do we respect the dead".
"What is the country doing? We do not respect the living nor do we respect the dead. Ours was a great civilisation. We have lost our civility," a bench of justices Badar Durrez Ahmed and Siddharth Mridul observed after it was informed that in some mortuaries lacking cold storage facility, bodies are stored in steel boxes.
The court directed Delhi government as well as the three municipal corporations and New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) to file an affidavit indicating whether hospitals under their control are complying with the central government's advisory on management of mortuaries there.
It sought a tabular chart of compliant and non-compliant hospitals in the capital.
The bench also directed Delhi government to file an affidavit with respect to the aspect of medical facilities available to prisoners - undertrials and convicts -indicating "whether proper medical facilities have been provided and whether norms are there for the same".
On the issue of dealing with letters of prisoners and/or
their families with respect to health of the prisoners, the court also sought an affidavit from the city government on how such representations are dealt with.
The court passed the order after hearing the submissions of the amicus curiae appointed to assist it to ascertain whether "disrespect" is being shown to bodies in hospital mortuaries as well as providing proper medical care to inmates in judicial custody.
The bench was hearing a PIL initiated by it after a murder accused died, allegedly due to tuberculosis (TB), while in judicial custody and then one eye of the deceased went missing while the body was kept in the mortuary of a government hospital where he was admitted for treatment.
During the hearing, the amicus informed the court that an advisory had been issued in March this year by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on the management of mortuaries in government hospitals across the country.
He said that while some exercise has been done with respect to proper handling of bodies, more needs to be done.
He also said that there should be a report with respect to compliance of the ministry's advisory.
The amicus also told the court that there is nothing on record regarding the medical facilities provided to prisoners as well as how representations regarding their health are dealt with by the authorities.
Raj Kumar was arrested and sent to judicial custody on October 27, 2007 for the murder of his wife. He was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment on October 24, 2013, under section 302 (murder).
In July, 2010, he was admitted to Rajan Babu Institute for Pulmonary Medicine and Tuberculosis (RBIPMT) where it first came out that he was suffering from an advanced form of TB, advocate R P Luthra, who is also assisting in the matter apart from the amicus, had earlier alleged in his note placed before the court.
Luthra had alleged that proper medical care was not provided to Kumar despite repeated requests from his family and sought that such medical assistance be provided to all inmates irrespective of whether a request has been made or not.
He had also submitted that Kumar had obtained bail in 2012 on account of his illness and the same was extended from time to time for a year during which he was availing treatment for TB.
The note had been filed by him in pursuance to the court's direction to him on July 30 to "prepare a short note on the points to be taken up for consideration in this public interest matter".