The Bombay High Court's bench at Nagpur has passed several directions to both the State government and the Union of India in order to stop the spread of the ongoing pandemic of coronavirus in the State of Maharashtra.
While hearing a writ petition filed by CH Sharma and others tagged along with public interest litigation filed by Subhash Jainarayan Zanwar, the division bench of Justice SB Shukre and Justice AG Gharote in an order dated March 23 said-
"We direct the Union of India and the State of Maharashtra to consider grant of approval and registration to private laboratories across the State of Maharashtra which are already equipped with COVID-19 testing facility including Dhruv laboratory, Nagpur and grant approval to such of the private laboratories as are found to be fulfilling the applicable norms within a period of one week from the date of order."
Furthermore, in the hearing on March 26, Court asked the state government to re-consider the decision in circular dated March 24 wherein the deadline for acceptance of all treasury bills by the concerned District Treasuries and Sub-Treasuries was fixed at March 27. Calling the said circular arbitrary, the bench observed-
"We find that when it is admitted by the author of the Circular that all Offices are working at extremely depleted strength – strength of not more than 5% of its total staff members, it would be unreasonable on the part of the Authority to expect that these Offices constrained by depletion of their staff members, would be able to meet the deadline of 27/3/2020 in submitting the pay/Treasury bills."
Court also asked all the concerned authorities running private Medical Colleges and Hospitals to also provide personal protection or Hazmat kits in adequate numbers to all Doctors and health care workers discharging their respective duties, as early as possible, preferably within a week's time from the date of order. The bench noted-
"This is an extra-ordinary situation and it requires extra-ordinary measures, which go beyond the stereotypes and, therefore, I would expect that Finance and Treasury Authorities would take such steps as are sufficient to reasonably meet the extra-ordinary situation created due to spread of such infectious disease in the nation."
Amicus Curiae Anup Gilda, Senior Advocate Jugalkishor Gilda assisted the Court in the matter, and Additional Government Pleader DP Thakare, Additional SG UM Aurangabadkar and SM Puranik appeared on behalf of the respondents.
After Amicus Curiae Anup Gilda and Sr Advocate Jugalkishor Gilda informed the bench about the prevailing conditions in various districts of Nagpur and medical facilities being provided, following directions were issued on March 23-
1) We direct the State to take necessary steps for creation of VRDL facilities for testing of COVID19 at places like Yavatmal, Gadchiroli and Chandrapur, and ensure that these facilities are provided and made functional within a period of two weeks from the date of order.
2) We direct the State Government to look into this deficiency and ensure that such kits are provided at all places in adequate numbers as early as possible preferably within a week's time from the date of order.
3) We direct the State to make necessary arrangements for setting up of the isolation wards at the Central Jails across the Vidarbha region, within a week's time from the date of order.
4) We direct the State to ensure that thermal screening of all the passengers arriving from domestic flights is carried out at Nagpur Airport until the situation improves.
5) We direct the Union of India, State of Maharashtra and local authorities to coordinate with each other and also coordinate with National Institute of Virology, Pune for procuring adequate number of additional testing kits. We also direct Union of India to take necessary steps for introducing duly approved Indian kits in the field so that more kits could be made available for testing purpose.
6) We direct the Union of India and the State of Maharashtra to consider grant of approval and registration to private laboratories across the State of Maharashtra which are already equipped with COVID-19 testing facility including Dhruv laboratory, Nagpur and grant approval to such of the private laboratories
The next date of hearing is March 30.
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