According to a newsletter issued by the International of Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (the IFRC) the Indian Supreme Court become involved in the day to day management of the response to catastrophic floods in that country in September (see Brian E. Frenkel, ‘The judiciary and disaster response – the case of Jammu & Kashmir’ IFRC, 28 November 2014).
I’m not familiar with the Indian court system or law so it’s surprising to me, as an Australian lawyer, to read that the Court, during the floods, made recommendations regarding the ongoing response:
… the Supreme Court suggested the government to consider the creation of a unified agency for proper co-ordination of rescue, relief and rehabilitation operations, and mentioned what it considers to be the top-most priorities: supply of food, drinking water, medicines, fuel and other essential supplies and the restoration of communication and provision for health-care facilities. Interestingly, it concludes by saying that “[a]fter all, lives of people who are affected by such disaster have to be saved” and calls for a new hearing 3 days after.
It’s a common criticism that judges are not well qualified, after the event, to pass judgment on decisions that are made during the confusion of a major response but at that time they are assisted by counsel and can review all the evidence. For a court get involved in ongoing operations and telling the emergency managers, including the Prime Minister who is ‘personally coordinating a committee with ultimate responsibility over the operation’ what their priorities should be, how they should be organised and that the government should consider ‘the possibility of granting ex-gratia payments to the affected people’ would appear to be very unusual, if not unheard of, at least by Australian standards.
All the orders mentioned were ‘interim’ orders, we’re told that the matter is still pending and heading for a hearing on 15 December 2014. It’s not made clear what remedy the plaintiff is seeking so we shall try to keep our eye out for the final outcome.