Delhi HC refuses to scrap govt’s death audit panel

The Delhi High Court has refused to scrap the Death Audit Committee (DAC) constituted by the Delhi government, observing that there seems to be “no arbitrariness or discrimination being done nor is there are any material to show false fabrication of data” on the number of coronavirus cases and the death toll.

A PIL was filed on May 21 alleging that the Delhi government was downplaying the spread of the disease and not presenting the true data on the number of people who had died due to Covid. DAC audits each death of a coronavirus patient in government and private hospitals.

A bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan stated that “we are not sitting in appeal against the reports published by the DAC… Moreover, there is no basis for the allegations to the effect that the Committee is not working properly”.

The bench disposed of a PIL by the All India Lawyers’ Union. The body’s Delhi unit had filed the petition through its secretary, lawyer Sunil Kumar.

The Union’s counsel, Fidel Sebastian, alleged there was an attempt by the Delhi government to downplay the seriousness of the Covid spread and the number of deaths. Delhi government’s Standing Counsel (Criminal) Rahul Mehra said the allegations were baseless.

He submitted that guidelines have been issued by the central government in this regard and a three-member DAC has been constituted by the Delhi government on April 20 for auditing and publishing the data. Mehra contended that the data has to be reported by all central government, Delhi government and private hospitals in a tabular form.

The bench said, “…it appears that the whole case of the petitioner is based upon presumptions…as the same has been filed…without proper research.” “There seems to be no arbitrariness or discrimination…nor is there are any material to show false fabrication of data,” it said.

The Indian Express had earlier reported on a mismatch between the toll released by the Delhi government and the four hospitals, the latter being significantly higher. Later, Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain had said hospitals were not providing details in the prescribed format and on time to the DAC.

The North and South civic bodies have also claimed that more than 400 funerals of ‘Covid positive’ bodies had been recorded until May 16. But the Delhi government said the MCDs had not provided documents to back their claims.

Meanwhile, Deputy CM Manish Sisodia welcomed the order. “I am glad that…Delhi High Court has put an end to ugly politics being played by some opposition leaders,” he tweeted.

AAP also sought an “apology” from BJP. “I think this HC judgment is a tight slap on the face of BJP and they should immediately apologise…,” said party spokesperson Raghav Chadha. – The Indian Express

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