Bombay HC hears Covid-19 related PILs; seeks Centre’s response on plea for door-to-door vaccination

THE Bombay High Court on Wednesday heard several Public Interest Litigation (PIL) matters related to Covid-19, supply of essential drugs, and vaccination.

The bench headed by Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Kulkarni had previously announced that PIL matters would be taken up every Wednesday during the vacation period.

The bench heard arguments in a PIL that sought door-to-door vaccination for citizens above 75 years of age and those who are specially-abled or bed-ridden.

ASG Anil Singh appeared for the Union Government. Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni appeared for State, while Senior Advocate Anil Sakhare appeared for the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).

During the hearing, the court inquired about the oxygen requirements and asked how much had been allocated by the Union Government. Advocate Akshay Shinde informed the court that the requirement was 1770 MT as of 11th May 2021 and that the Union Government had allotted 1779 MT of supply.

The bench also took stock of the supply of Remdesivir. The Chief Justice noted that the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India had mentioned Remdesivir as an investigational drug as early as 2020, but it was not procured in sufficient quantities. The bench further noted that there was a demand for 70,000 vials daily, but merely 45,000 vials were being supplied.

During the hearing, Advocate Inamdar submitted that there was a severe shortage of ICU and ventilator beds in Pune. The counsel for Pune municipal corporation claimed that ICU and ventilator beds were available. Hearing this, the bench directed that the Pune helpline be called and the phone be placed on a speaker mode. When an inquiry for a bed was made over the phone, the lawyer was told that there were no beds available. The bench directed the Pune Municipal Corporation to ensure that the control room has updated data. 

Advocate Dhruti Kapadia, who had filed the PIL, appeared in person. During the hearing, Kapadia submitted that there was no policy in place regarding the vaccination of bed-ridden individuals and the same could be planned at the ward level. She also submitted that prisoners were getting vaccines through their prison numbers, but there was a need for a policy for those who do not have any form of identification or documents.

The bench noted that Kapadia’s submissions were important considering the rise in the number of infections.

The Court asked ASG Anil Singh about the policy regarding door-to-door vaccination. The court remarked that if the door-to-door vaccination policy had been in place, then a lot of prominent deaths could have been avoided.

ASG Anil Singh submitted that the ward-wise drive was being planned and further plans will be made based on its results. The bench asked ASG Anil Singh to apprise the Court next Wednesday about the Union Government’s stand on the door-to-door policy.

“We are conscious that everyone is working and there is a lot of stress. We only wish to find solutions,” remarked Justice Kulkarni at the end of the hearing.

All four benches of the Bombay High Court in Maharashtra situated at Bombay, Nagpur, Aurangabad, and Goa are hearing COVID-related cases.

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