THE Patna high court has pulled up the Bihar government for not maintaining proper records of births and deaths during the pandemic. The court said that the state’s reluctance to publish the correct number of deaths was “uncalled and not protected by the law”.
The state’s digital portal, which ought to display relevant data, has not updated since 2018, The court ordered that elected representatives disclose such data within 24 hours.
A division of bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice Sanjay Kumar said, “ In our considered view, the resistance to publishing records of deaths and births is uncalled for, as such action is neither protected by any law nor in consonance with settled principles of good governance”.
“The government, while correcting its myopic approach, only needs a reminder, to cover with the veil of secrecy the common routine business is not in the interest of the public. Such secrecy can seldom be legitimately desired”, the bench added.
The High Court questioned the state government why the state was reluctant to upload the information on the website when the World Health Organisation and the central government can produce the status. The court said,” Transparency is the hallmark of good governance. We see no reason as to why such information is not added on the public domain.”
The Court reminded the state government of the facets of Article 2, Registration of Death Act,1969 and Right to information act 2005. It said, “More than ten crore people of the State of Bihar have a right to know, on a digital platform, the number of deaths that occurred in Bihar during the time of Covid-19”.
Bihar hit the headlines for undercounting the deaths related to covid-19. According to the revised death toll of the Bihar health department on June 10, it has added 3,951 uncounted COVID19-related deaths to the state’s overall tally.
According to the revised death toll, Bihar has so far reported 9,429 Covid deaths, including about 1,500 in the first wave while Bihar’s official Covid-19 death fatalities figure for January-May 2021 stand at 7,717, according to NDTV.
An investigation by the Indian Express further revealed the state not only under-counted the covid cases but also used fake phone numbers and fake names to record the Covid data.
Out of 230 entries, only 12 were confirmed positive. The cell number used against 25 entries dated January 24 was invalid. So was the case with another number used for 13 entries for testing on January 25. The phone number of a daily wage worker was mentioned against 26 entries who got the RT-PCR tests.
Rampant discrepancies in Corona testing, i.e. RT-PCR, in Bihar have come to the fore. For example, Shah Faisal (23), a resident of village Damalbadi said he underwent a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) and, after a couple of days, received a message showing a ‘negative’ RT-PCR test that he did not undergo.
Meanwhile, the state’s Civil Registration System has recorded 75,000 deaths in Bihar for unexplained reasons in the first five months of 2021.