STATE TIMES NEWS JAMMU: A Division Bench (DB) of Jammu & Kashmir High Court Jammu Wing comprising Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Rajesh Bindal on Wednesday directed administration of J&K and Ladakh UTs to ensure proper quarantine and isolation facilities in wake of emergent situation arising due to outbreak of Novel Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Earlier, DB treated representation submitted to High Court by Dr. Zahoor Hussain Mir, resident of Budgam, as a guardian of a student Heena Sugra Shabnum stated to be pursuing her higher studies in medicine at the Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Iran as Public Interest Litigation (PIL). While considering the submission of Dr. Zahoor, the DB observed that in wake of identification of Iran as the second epicenter in the world with regard to COVID-19, steps for evacuation of the Indian nationals including the children from the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh are required to be undertaken by Union Government. The DB observed that before an order could be passed on the aforesaid representation, a further e-mail dated March 2, 2020 has been received from Dr. Zahoor Hussain Mir placing the gravity of the circumstances of the Indian students stranded in Iran. DB observed that the aforesaid communication place the dire conditions of the Indian students who are studying in Iran stated to be from Jammu and Kashmir and seek immediate assistance of the authorities. The matter requires intervention of both the Center as well as authorities of both the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. Upon this, Division Bench arrayed Government of India through Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India through Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Secretary Ministry of Civil Aviation Chief Secretaries of Union Territory Jammu & Kashmir and Union Territory Ladakh and Commissioner/ Secretaries Health and Medical Education Department of UT J&K and UT Ladakh as party respondents and issued notices to them. DB observed that it appears that Secretary Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has also formalized a Containment Plan-Novel Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID 19) and the directions stand issued to the State/District to prepare an event specific micro-plan and to implement the containment operations. “Respondents are bound to take steps in terms of the mandate of this Containment Plan”, the court observed. DB directed Union Government to ensure availability of the required materials including masks, medication and essential commodities including food etc. to all Indians especially the students, who are stated to be stranded there. DB further directed Union Government to identify the protocol to be followed, examine the mode to forthwith implement the same and take steps for evacuation of the Indian students stranded in Iran. DB further directed JK UT and Ladakh UT to identify and ensure creation of proper facilities for isolation and quarantine in the Government and private sectors, testing laboratories as well as availability of the health care and medication in the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh for prevention of the COVID 19 disease and treatment of the persons infected/carrying the infection and also to take immediate steps for acquisition of and to ensure availability in sufficient numbers and quantity of N-95 (or any other recommended) masks, for the public and separation kits for all medical personnel and staff. DB further directed JK UT and Ladakh UT to take immediate steps for spreading information regarding the nature of the COVID 19 infection; the manner of its spread; preventive measures and steps to be taken if an individual is infected and inform this Court with regard to the steps taken in terms of the Containment Plan issued by respondent. DB appointed Advocate Monika Kohli as amicus curiae in this matter and issued notice to respondents that a report in this matter be placed before this Court on or before the next date. The DB directed that pending evacuation of Indian students from Iran, it is absolutely essential to ensure all preventive measures as well as basic requirements to the Indian students currently staying in that country. DB further directed that all the necessary and appropriate measures required for evacuation of the Indian students from Iran to India be initiated. DB further said that apart from the Indian students in Iran, measures regarding the virus require to be undertaken for the general populace in the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir as well as Ladakh is also necessary. DB further observed that it is equally, if not more important, to equip, empower as well as protect medical and health experts, nursing and other paramedical and other personnel who would be coming into direct contact with infected persons. Ignorance about the infection, its mode of spread, steps for prevention and treatment would create a general panic amongst the public, the court observed. DB further said that delays in acquisition of any item by Government agencies are proverbial. The above steps cannot wait arrival of the infection in the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir as well as Ladakh and must be initiated immediately and completed at the earliest and directed certainly steps in this regard have to be taken in anticipation.
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