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Millennium Post

A responsible executive

Even before Lieutenant-Governor Baijal overturned the two Delhi government orders related to Coronavirus in the NCT of Delhi, pleas had already been filed in the Delhi High Court over the same. These petitions challenged the Delhi government's June 2 and June 7 orders wherein the former had excluded the testing of asymptomatic people and reserved state-run and private hospitals for bonafide residents of the Capital respectively. But just as the Delhi High Court and Delhi government discuss the latter's aforementioned decisions in the legal sphere, LG Baijal, in his capacity as Chair of the Delhi Disaster Management Authority, quashed both orders. LG firmly stated the template set by the Apex Court in successive judgments which explicitly cites that Right to Health is an integral part of Right to Life under Article 21 of the Constitution; the same being the argument of the petitioners who challenged the Delhi government's order in the High Court. Consequently, the Delhi government set aside both orders, not depriving any non-resident of a bed in hospitals of the Capital and allowing all asymptomatic people to test for the virus. But disappointment was clearly underlined through the Manish Sisodia press conference that followed the LG's announcement. From the legal purview, however, the Delhi government's order might not have stood the test of rationality anyway. The decision to not test asymptomatic patients was a sharp deviation from ICMR's norms. It has already been reported that contacts of infected people appear asymptomatic and yet test positive for Covid-19. Leaving them out of the ambit would have been disastrous for the Capital, especially since the caseload is witnessing an exponential rise. Also, the legal route would have overturned the said order of reserving beds for residents of Capital since it comes in contravention with the fundamental right of citizens in general. AAP government's order essentially places all those residents of Delhi who do not have a bonafide address and are present in the capital for any purpose at a disadvantage. It could be students, professionals, etc., anyone residing in Delhi for some time now and not in possession of any valid address proof. Their fundamental rights are violated through the Kejriwal government's order notwithstanding the logic under which it was taken. Therefore, LG Baijal, in hindsight, simply evaded the legal days that would have been spent in arriving at a verdict that would have matched his executive decision.

LG Baijal's swift decision also signifies the difference an alert executive can make in a democracy. In utilising his administrative powers to do just to a situation that would otherwise require judicial intervention, LG Baijal has also set the bar for all public servants to adhere to. For instance, had the Centre earnestly supervised the migrant crisis, Supreme Court's delayed suo motu intervention would not have been necessitated. There have been relatively fewer press conferences from the Central government in the latter half of the lockdown and unlockdown phase. But this is a crucial period as people deserve to know where we stand in our fight against the virus and what has the government planned for the coming months. Rather than again resorting to legal route to compel the executive to apprise people about the situation, the former can directly address the elephant in the room, quite the way LG Baijal did. It is unfortunate that to seek details of donations to PM CARES and expenditure from it in the interest of the needy, people have to resort to RTI applications and court petitions. The executive can present the transparency that the public has sought without attracting judicial intervention to facilitate the same. The executive structure of this country, by design, is empowered to serve the public while the judiciary checks the former's excesses. It would be prudent to bring back this equation in equilibrium, especially in this hour of grave uncertainty.

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