Just launched Website educates us on our Covid-19 related rights. Let's check.
Sharon Mathew was in a meeting with her CPR colleagues when one of them shared how their landlord succumbed to the coronavirus due to the irresponsibility of the hospital. The landlord, who was infected with COVID-19 approached a hospital for treatment who denied it despite his worsening symptoms just because he did not show a positive RT-PCR report. The hospital sent him away and by the time he got tested and obtained a positive report, he passed away. "A life, which could easily have been saved, was lost due to a piece of paper. The hospital considered the report more essential to receive medical attention than plunging oxygen levels and scorching fever. Sharon states. The hospital completely paid a dead ear to the government order and direction given by the Supreme Court, which stated that hospitals cannot deny medical assistance merely because the patient does not have a COVID-19 positive test report". The landlord had no knowledge of his basic right to seek medical attention. Had he known about it, he would have fought back and his life could have been saved.
Sharon Mathew says that the rights that are created to benefit the citizens shall be of no use if the citizens are not aware of them. Multiple lives are being lost due to lack of knowledge.
Who Is Sharon Mathew?
Sharon Mathew is a law graduate from the Gandhinagar National Law University who graduated in 2018. With an inclination towards environmental law, she went on to obtain Post Graduate Diploma in Environmental Law in 2020 from the National Law School of India. On parallel lines, she joined the Legal Initiative for the Forest and Environment as an associate litigator. She worked there for two years during which period she stood by various NGOs and tribal communities protecting their environmental rights before the National Green Tribunal and the Supreme Court of India. Once she finished her post-graduate diploma in Environmental Law, she decided to gain experience in environmental policy and thus joined CPR as a research associate. She works in the Initiative for Climate Change, Energy, and Environment (ICEE), where her role is to understand the functioning of the regulatory and judicial institutions of the environment, in general, and air quality in particular.
Creating Awareness On The Rights:
After knowing about the injustices happening to people in times of pandemic, Sharon dug deep and understood the root behind people's suffering. She concluded that though rights and procedures were framed for the benefit of people in times of pandemic, people are not aware of them and this lack of knowledge has become the key to the tricksters to con the innocent. Sharon thus decided to use her education and experience to change this situation. She started a website called "COVIDRights India". The website is a collective effort of a team of researchers and lawyers in order to support those affected by COVID-19. This website displays various orders passed by the Supreme Court, High Courts and Ministries organised in a state-wise manner so that anyone who is in need of information can easily access it. Through this website, they also provide an opportunity to people in case they need any legal assistance in these tough times. This website also ensures that vulnerable people know their rights with respect to medical attention or any related help. "By making COVID-19 specific legal orders, judgements, and guidelines accessible to the public, we hope that citizens are better equipped to deal with situations that increase their difficulties and perpetuate injustices in these trying times. In these difficult times, it is imperative that we, as citizens, know what we can demand from the institutions created to protect us in our times of need.", Sharon says. Currently, the core team of COVIDRights has nine people and over 15 volunteers. The team has until now, received 20 legal queries, filed seven legal notices, and has taken up one medical negligence case.
Overcoming The Challenges:
The curation of all the orders, circulars, notifications, etc. related to COVID-19 issued by various ministries, governments, and courts marked as a challenge to the team because each state has its own set of procedures besides the directions passed by the central government and the Supreme Court. However, with lawyers and students actively coming forward to compile and upload the court orders, things started to flow freely. "Our team of lawyers and researchers are involved in updating the website so that no relevant information falls through the cracks. Some of these circulars are also in regional languages, and the local lawyers have been instrumental in translating these documents to make them accessible to all,” said Sharon.
The Future Of COVIDRights India:
Sharon says that the team would like to file public interest litigation (PILs) to ensure equal access to COVID-19 healthcare, especially to citizens who were denied healthcare mercilessly. She mentions that the team would, in future, reach out to communities that lack good infrastructure and resources.
“We must ensure that the right to access COVID-19 specific healthcare is safeguarded and ensured by the state during the pandemic.", she concludes.
With a website dedicated to protect and advise on the legalities related to COVID-19 taking the centre stage is a good thing to hear. But how many of us know that this website is working relentlessly to safeguard people's rights? Their Instagram and Twitter account handles should reach as many citizens as they can and through word of mouth and social media, let more people know about this website and may many people benefit out of it.
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