New Delhi, May 3: The Supreme Court has asked the Union and state governments to consider imposing a ban on mass gatherings and super-spreader events, as well as bring about a lockdown, to curb the spread of the coronavirus "in the interest of public welfare".
A three-judge bench, presided over by Justice D Y Chandrachud, made the suggestion in light of the continuing surge of infections in the country. The court asked the Centre and state governments to put on record by May 10 the efforts taken to curb the spread of the virus and the measures that they plan on taking in the near future.
The order comes at a time when several state governments have imposed curbs, including curfew on movement of the public, at a local level.
In a detailed order in the suo motu matter, released on Sunday evening, the bench clarified, "We are cognisant of the socio-economic impact of a lockdown, specifically on the marginalised communities. Thus, in case the measure of a lockdown is imposed, arrangements must be made beforehand to cater to the needs of these communities."
The court, which asked the Centre to revisit its policy on procurement of essentials drugs, oxygen and vaccination, also favoured taking care of healthcare professionals -- not just limited to doctors, but also nurses, hospital staff, ambulance drivers, sanitation workers and crematorium workers for their dedicated efforts in currently tackling the pandemic.
The bench, also comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao and S Ravindra Bhat, noted that the Centre has extended for one year the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package Insurance Scheme of Rs 50 lakh to help about 22 lakh healthcare professionals.
The court directed the central government to inform how many claims are pending under the scheme, and the timeline to settle them.
It noted that till date, only 287 claims have been settled, including from the families of 168 doctors who died after contracting Covid-19 while treating patients.
The court also asked the central government to provide other facilities such as food, rest during intervals, transportation, non-deduction of salary, overtime allowance in both public and private hospitals. A separate helpline for doctors and healthcare professionals was also needed to ensure the nation truly acknowledges their effort and creates incentives for them".