HC expresses displeasure with ‘publicity interest’ petitions

Describing three separate PIL petitions by former Ministers on COVID-19 related issues as “publicity interest” petitions, the High Court of Karnataka on Thursday declined to entertain the petitions by H.K. Patil and S.R. Patil, while disposing of another one by K.R. Ramesh Kumar.

A Special Division Bench. comprising Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Aravin Kumar. passed the order questioning them for knocking at the doors of the court, when they were in privileged positions to get their grievances redressed by the State government. All the three petitioners belong to the Congress.

The Bench orally termed Mr. H.K. Patil’s petition, seeking direction to the government to take ISRO’s assistance to store oxygen, as “frivolous” and asked what had the petitioner done to set up oxygen plants in his district.

As the Bench orally indicated that it would dismiss the petition with an exemplary cost, while giving option to his counsel to withdraw it, his counsel later withdrew the petition.

On the petition by Mr. S.R. Patil, Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council, questioning action initiated by the government against private hospitals for admitting COVID-19 patients exceeding its capacity and for a minimum quantity of oxygen supply to private hospitals in Bagalkot district, the Bench asked how could he espouse the cause of private hospitals while asking him to give representation to the government.

Though the Bench termed as “publicity interest” the one filed by Mr. Ramesh Kumar, it disposed of the petition by only directing the government to issue circular to all private hospitals treating COVID-19 patients for implementing Section 11(vi) of the Karnataka Private Medical Establishments Act.

This provision, which mandates private hospitals to hand over, in the event of the death of a patient, the body immediately without insisting on prior payment of the dues and to recover amount from their representatives as per law, was included in the Act in 2018 when Mr. Ramesh Kumar was the Minister for Health, his counsel had pointed out.

At one stage, the court also observed orally what had they been doing since the past 14 months. However, one counsel told the Bench that it was just a coincidence that all three petitions came up for hearing on the same day.

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