The Bombay High Court on Friday expressed displeasure after an unsigned written note was submitted on behalf of the State government stating that testing facilities for Covid-19 were not required to be established in all districts of the State.
Division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice KK Tated were hearing a PIL filed by Khalil Wasta, a fisherman from Ratnagiri who contended that although the population of Ratnagiri district was over 16 lakh, there are only six hospitals that are working and two of these hospitals are reserved for treatment of Covid-19 patients. Moreover, swabs taken for testing are sent 178 kms away to Miraj Hospital in Sangli district, the PIL states.
While hearing the matter on May 26, the Court had expanded the scope of the hearing from Ratnagiri to all districts in the State noting that it is shocking that there are so few testing facilities in some districts of the State. Court then asked the State to inform whether testing facilities are available in each district.
On Friday, AGP Jyoti Chavan submitted a written note without a signature before the court which stated that testing facilities are not required to be set up in each district.
The bench remarked-
"It is strange for us that no testing facilities are required in any districts. What kind of note is this that does not bear any signature?"
Then, the Court directed the AGP to request the Advocate General to appear immediately. Once AG AA Kumbhakoni appeared, the bench asked him- "How can such a statement be made that testing facilities for Covid-19 are not required in all districts?"
AG Kumbhakoni submitted that he will personally look into the matter and ensure that the situation is sorted out. He further stated that he will call the highest officer in the case at 4:30 pm in Court and meet him.
Advocate Rakesh Bhatkar appearing for the petitioner had previously informed the court there are 26 medical colleges and hospitals that can be used for conducting the Covid-19 tests which also meet the guidelines issued by Indian Council of Medical Research but nothing has been done so far.
The bench remarked that all matters related to health concerns around Covid-19 should be clubbed and listed together. The next date of hearing in the matter is June 2.
The PIL states that it takes approximately five hours to reach Miraj Hospital in Sangli which is 178 km away. And from Dapoli, which is the end point of Ratnagiri district, to Miraj is 237 km with travel time of about six and a half hours.
Moreover, a major number of Covid-19 patients are found in Dapoli and considering the distance there is a delay in sending and receiving samples. After migrants moved to Ratnagiri, the number of tests have increased and Miraj hospital has displayed inability to carry out more than 125 tests because it is overburdened, the PIL states.