The Bombay High Court on Monday directed the State government to file a reply in a public interest litigation filed by ex-MLC Mohan Joshi seeking distribution of sanitizers, face masks and PPE kits that were meant for the black market but were seized by the police, amongst doctors, medical staff, police officials and other 'Corona Warriors' like sweepers, cleaners etc.
Justice BP Colabawalla heard the matter via video conferencing and asked the state to create an inventory of such seized products and file an affidavit.
Advocate Vishal Kanade appeared on behalf of the petitioner and Advocate Jyoti Chavan for the respondent State. Chavan submitted that she will inform the Court if any return of property claim regarding the seizures has come up.
The petition filed through Advocate Harsh Parte, cites a Times of India report stating -
"In the time of crisis over the shortage of face masks and hand sanitizers, the Mumbai Police on Monday seized 25 lakh masks which were being smuggled out of India".
Similarly, government officials across the state have raided various places and confiscated or seized such essential health equipment and materials, the petition states.
However, upon making enquiries from officials of state public health department and state home department the petitioner learnt that there are no guidelines for release of such confiscated masks, which were seized by the police department to hospitals, health officials etc.
The PIL states-
"Though the various criminal investigations may proceed in due course of time while dealing with the accused / offenders arrested in lieu of said such crimes directly and / or indirectly dealing with, selling, storing, trading hand sanitizers, various types of face masks, including N-95 and other protective gears and PPE kits, etc, comprising the illegal activities of the black-market sale of the same, it is necessary to bring such health equipments and materials to put to use, which in the alternative would lead to wastage of national resources."
Thus, the PIL seeks directions to the state to furnish details of all the seized/confiscated health equipment and distribution of the same to the active working government officials, including all medical staff (doctors, nurses) police officials on duty, cleaners and sweepers, etc.
The matter will now be heard sometime next week.
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