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Days after it pulled up Gujarat govt over Covid situation, HC bench changed

Following a scathing order of May 22 where a division bench headed by Justice J B Pardiwala of Gujarat High Court compared the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital to a dungeon and a subsequent order of May 25 where the same bench said it would pay a visit to the hospital, refusing to give the state government a clean chit, the bench was shuffled for Friday listing of matters. The new bench, as notified on Thursday, will now be headed by the Gujarat High Court Chief Justice Vikram Nath, while Justice Pardiwala will be the junior judge in the bench.

The change in the judges’ roster comes abruptly on the last working day of the week when it is due to hear the public interest litigation (PIL) on all issues pertaining to Covid-19. The PIL was being heard by a division bench headed by Justice Pardiwala, along with Justice Ilesh Vora, since May 11. Prior to May 11, the PIL was taken up seven times by the bench headed by the Chief Justice, since March 13, when the PIL came to be registered following the court’s suo motu cognisance of WHO’s declaration of Covid-19 outbreak as a pandemic.

Hours after the reshuffled division bench was notified, several concerned citizens, including several advocates, wrote to the Chief Justice of the Gujarat HC, to express their “disappointment and serious concern” regarding the Chief Justice’s decision to change the bench, citing that the change may break the continuity of the hearings and the significant directions that the court had issued to the government earlier.

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