Editorial

Let the law decide

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 6/4/2020 12:54:38 PM IST

 A Public Interest Litigations (PIL) have been filed with the Gauhati High Court, Kohima Bench over the issue of purchases of various medical kits, equipments and medicines for preparedness to contain the spread of COVID-19 pandemic in Nagaland. In the PIL, the four applicants, sought the court’s intervention on alleged corruption in the purchases of several items under the department of health and family welfare after answers to RTI queries given by the latter was ambiguous. When the replies received from the department (H&FW) were found to be unsatisfactory, the four then decided to take the issue up with the state governor through a memorandum on May 11,2020. The applicants, in their memorandum, pointed out that the department had bypassed laid down procedures to purchase various medical equipments such as Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), face masks of various grades, ventilators, surgical gloves, oxygen cylinders of specified grade, Dead Body Bags (DBBs) etc. What the four pointed out was that the department had not floated tenders, nor were designated Purchase Committee (PC) and Verification Committee (VC)/Quality Control Committee (QCC) involved in the entire process. In fact, the purchases were done by selecting the favoured firm(s) by placing orders following due process laid down. The rates appeared to have been fixed/approved by a chosen few and also received by a few on behalf of the official committee and the records of which were not available in files nor were signatures of the officials appended, it was claimed. The department also said the purchases totalled Rs. 30,50,26,000 but only Rs. Rs.12,27,24,000 was paid leaving a balance of Rs.29,16,64,000. To pay the entire supply bill, the department further claimed it was still short of Rs. 1,33,62,000.What is strange is why didn’t the department release Rs.29,27,24,000 against the bill of Rs.30,50,26,000 due, instead of keeping it pending just for a deficit of Rs.1,33,62,000?. The sub-standard equipments with many bearing no labels nor information about the items and purchased with rates that were questionable and rejected by COVID-19 hospitals since these would certainly expose the workers to inherent danger from COVID-19. The issue is serious since it involves the lives of the frontline workers and the public. Since there has been no response to the memorandum, the RTI applicants then took the matter to the Gauhati High Court, Kohima Bench in the form of PIL. In the petition, the applicants asked the court to direct the respondents (officials of the department) to recall the poor quality PPEs procured which are already dispatched to the COVID-19 Designated Hospitals; to direct a CBI inquiry; regulate the price of medical equipments; set up a monitoring committee; upload all information on procurement of public goods; and maintain the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for public procurements. On the face of it, the RTI and subsequent plea to the court is in line with transparency and accountability in governance. The objection raised against RTI and PIL by some organisation on the plea that it would impede the current preparedness by the department to contain COVID-19 is untenable. It is like trying to suggest that a soldier who commits a crime during war should not be punished lest it demoralises the forces. This specious argument is not only bizarre but a travesty of justice. The law should be allowed to take its own course so that the lives of frontline warriors are not endangered to shield the guilty.

 

Launched on December 3,1990. Nagaland Post is the first and highest circulated newspaper of Nagaland state. Nagaland Post is also the first newspaper in Nagaland to be published in multi-colour.

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