Patients are being turned away from hospitals because of non-availability of beds during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the national capital, Advocate Hemant Gulati, a criminal and matrimonial lawyer for over ten years practising in Delhi High Court and District Courts, has been taking up such cases on a pro-bono basis.
“Until two weeks ago, I was getting almost 80-90 distress calls each day. Now it’s about 30-40 calls,” says Hemant, whose contact details have become viral.
It all began when he put out a WhatsApp message sharing his contact details, asking people to call him if they were turned away from hospitals while seeking bed/treatment for COVID-19.
“Sometime in June, I decided to do my bit to help COVID-19 patients in Delhi. I kept reading about patients losing their lives even before they could get medical treatment,” says Hemant.
On 19 June 2020, Hemant filed a Writ Petition before the Delhi High Court, on behalf of Prem Singh, who had lost his wife to COVID-19. The widower ran from pillar to post to get his 34-year-old daughter with 85 per cent disabilities admitted and treated for COVID-19. This was despite 60-year-old Prem being a government employee.
Speaking to The Better India, he says, “This has been a very trying time for my family. I lost my wife to COVID-19 and my daughter was left on a stretcher outside the hospital. They even refused to look at her and we had nowhere to go. It was Gulati who swung into immediate action to help me.”
The lawyer worked through the night to prepare a petition and filed it first thing in the morning, to be taken up for hearing by a judge. Before the end of the day, he had a favourable order because of which Prem’s daughter could be admitted to a private hospital.
He wants no praise for his selfless actions and tells me with great sincerity and passion, “I am fighting for a basic fundamental right that no citizen should be denied.”
When asked how long the process of filing a petition and getting an order is, he explains, “Given the circumstances, these are highly time-bound cases, which need swift action. I have been filing the petitions as soon as possible, and once they are listed for hearing, an order is also passed quickly. Sometimes even the same day.”
It’s not all good though, says Hemant. “I regret not being able to help one patient who lost his life to COVID-19. While the petition was ready to be filed, I got a call informing me of his demise. That was a tough day,” he recollects.
Doing this, he wishes that the maximum number of patients can use the facilities that the government claims to have set up to fight the pandemic. He can be reached on +91 79826 56531. “I am a one-person army, and I am willing to take up cases on a pro-bono basis as and when needed.”
While his number is available to the public at large, do be mindful when you contact him.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)