After HC rapping, Kejriwal government withdraws order to set up COVID facility for judges at Ashoka Hotel



NEW DELHI: The Delhi government on Tuesday issued directions to withdraw an administrative order to set up a 100-room COVID care facility for Delhi High Court judges, staff and their families in a five-star hotel, hours after a bench of the court said it had not requested for such a facility.

Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia in a late night tweet said that the direction was issued to withdraw the order to set up a COVID care facility for judges at the Ashoka Hotel.

“Issued directions to withdraw this order immediately,” Sisodia tweeted.

Earlier in the day, Delhi government sources claiming that the order was issued without knowledge of the chief minister, his deputy or even health minister, said that Sisodia had summoned the file related to the order to examine how it was passed.

The order, issued by Chanakyapuri sub-divisional magistrate on April 25, stated the COVID facility at Ashoka Hotel will be associated with Primus Hospital.

It also said the facility was being set up on the request of the Delhi High Court.

Taking suo motu cognisance of media reports in the regard, the Delhi High Court said on Tuesday it has not made any request for creating COVID-19 facilities for its judges, staff and their families in the five-star Ashoka Hotel.

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The sources claimed Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, his deputy Sisodia or Health Minister Satyendar Jain were not informed about the order.

“Even a copy of the said order was not marked to anyone of them,” a source said.

During the hearing, the Delhi High Court bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli said, “No communication has been made to anyone in this regard.

Taking suo motu cognisance of the news reports which said that 100 rooms of Ashoka Hotel in national capital have been converted into a COVID health facility for judges of Delhi High Court on its request, a bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli said,”No communication has been made to anyone in this regard”.

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“This is very very misleading. The high court has not made any such request for setting up beds in any such five star hotel,” the bench said and added that the order passed by the sub-divisional magistrate was wrong as the state cannot create a facility exclusively for a class.

The bench said the high court cannot ask for creating such facility which is going to be discriminatory.

It further said that when the Delhi government was unable to provide oxygen to everybody, it was talking of providing a 100-bed facility for the high court judges.

“That is very unfortunate. You (Delhi government) are passing orders left, right and centre without even bothering to do anything about it. You are attaching the facility to a hospital, but there are no doctors, no nurses, no staff, no ward boys, no oxygen, no equipment, no ventilators, no medicines, nothing.”

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“But you have done your job on paper. What were you trying to convey? What is the projection? The projection is that we have taken up these (petitions on lack of oxygen, medicines, etc.) matters daily to benefit ourselves or that you have done it to appease us,” the bench said.

Senior advocate Rahul Mehra, appearing for the Delhi government, attempted to blame the media for the situation saying that “media was playing a mischievous game” by projecting the SDM’s order in a certain manner.

“Media’s perception cannot be controlled,” Mehra said.

However, the bench did not buy that line of argument and said, “Media is not wrong in pointing it out, because this order is wrong. Your order says it is at the request of the high court. Can anyone imagine that we as an institution can say that you create a special facility for us. Is this not discriminatory? Especially when people are struggling to find beds.”

“You cannot create a facility exclusively for a class. Therefore, this order is wrong,” the court added and directed the Delhi government to “take corrective steps immediately” and “withdraw the order”, failing which the court shall quash it. Delhi government additional standing counsel Santosh K Tripathi assured the bench that the order would be withdrawn forthwith.

The bench also issued notice to the Delhi government seeking its stand on the matter which the court has registered as public interest litigation.

In an order issued by the sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) of Chanakyapuri on April 25, it was stated that the COVID facility at Ashoka Hotel will be associated with Primus Hospital.

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The court said it only had a meeting to discuss the situation in the subordinate judiciary where judges had to hold court in person and many of them, including their families, were infected by COVID-19.

“We lost two judicial officers to COVID-19,” the bench said and added that in such a situation it only wanted that if these judicial officers wanted admission in a hospital then some facility should be available to them.

“That has been translated into this kind of order. As if we wanted a facility for ourselves. Where is the question of our having a 100-bed facility,” the court said.

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