The first to be struck down by H1N1 was a judge who is part of the nine-judge bench which on February 10 heard arguments for just two hours. The judge’s illness has derailed the hearing since then. He has almost recovered, brightening the chances of early resumption of hearing. After him, the flu spread quickly, catching four others.
Of the four, three had a milder attack of H1N1. Though infected much later than the first judge, they have fully recovered and resumed court work on Tuesday.
The sitting of many courts had to be cancelled as apart from these five, another judge slipped in the bathroom at his residence a fortnight ago and injured his spinal cord. He has been advised rest and will take weeks to recover. A woman judge had an attack of nausea on Monday and is expected to resume work on Wednesday.
The health ministry said, “All the judges were provided treatment as per the protocol. Prophylactic treatment was also given to all who have come in contact with them including their family members. All five judges were kept in home isolation. Of these, three judges have already resumed their duty and two continue to be under home isolation/observation and are recovering.”
Given the unprecedented situation, CJI S A Bobde met his colleagues Tuesday morning and discussed a plan of action to contain spread of the virus. The health ministry was also contacted. After a detailed discussion, the CJI asked the health department to take urgent measures — equipping the first aid post of CGHS in the SC complex and sanitising courtrooms and judges’ residences.
According to SC sources, the health department has agreed to open a temporary medical dispensary that will help identify lawyers and court staff infected with H1N1 and inoculate on a chargeable basis.
The effect of this unprecedented virus attack was evident on the judges. Justice D Y Chandrachud told lawyers in the morning that six judges were affected by H1N1 virus and that the SC was taking steps to make inoculation available to lawyers. Justice Arun Mishra was seen advising lawyers who were feeling unwell to stay home and rest. “It is a request to everyone. If you do not feel well, do not come to court,” he said.