The Bombay High Court on Tuesday asked the Union of India to file an affidavit indicating steps taken by the Western and Central Railway to convert coaches into isolation/quarantine centres while hearing a PIL seeking directions for better control and management of Covid-19 in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR).
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipanakar Datta and Justice MS Karnik heard the PIL filed by Naresh Kapur, an activist who relied on various news reports and tweets to illustrate the mismanagement regarding Covid-19 and sought various directions to ensure control of the virus including making rapid antibody test widely available across MMR and re-opening closed hospitals, nursing homes and dispensaries.
Moreover, the petitioner sought directions to allow private practitioners to prescribe tests for Covid-19 and keep the status of beds available in the MMR area updated online in real time so that no patient is denied admission. Also directions were sought to ensure that the railway coaches should be converted into make-shift ICUs for effective treatment of patients.
Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni placed a circular before the Court dated June 22, 2020 issued by the State in pursuance of an advisory of the Indian Council of Medical Research on the use of rapid antigen detection test for Covid-19 dated June 14. The said circular was shared with petitioner's counsel Perak Chaudhary.
Chaudhary agreed that the circular issued by the State addresses one of several concerns expressed by the petitioner. Thus, Court noted that the said issue of rapid testing kits can be laid to rest and the direction to allow private practitioners to prescribe Covid-19 tests will be looked into in the next hearing.
AG Kumbhkoni submitted a circular issued by the Corporation pursuant to guidelines of the ICMR in force stipulating certain conditions on the fulfilment whereof a test can be prescribed. Court said the circular may be shared with the petitioner.
Whereas, the concern expressed by the petitioner with regard to making beds available and keeping the status of beds updated online for patients infected with Covid as well as infected with other diseases is covered by the decision of the coordinate Bench of this Court in the matter of Jan Swasthya Abhiyan and Anr. vs. State of Maharashtra and Ors.; thus, we are of the opinion that it need not be addressed by us separately, the bench said.
In the aforesaid case, State had told the Court that around 80% of beds in private/charitable hospitals were reserved for treatment of Covid-19 patients and 20% reserved for the patients belonging to the economically weaker section. Court had then expressed satisfaction with the system in place and granted liberty to the State to punish any hospital that does not follow directives.
The bench observed-
"Insofar as the prayer of the petitioner for reopening of closed hospitals, nursing homes and dispensaries is concerned, we find no reason to grant the same. It has been noticed in the decision in Jan Swasthya Abhiyan and Anr. (supra) that facilities for treating Covid as well as non-Covid patients presently at the disposal of the State as well as the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai are not that insufficient so as to call for an order to reopen closed hospitals, nursing homes and dispensaries.
Further, granting the prayer would amount to tinkering with administrative/judicial orders. Such a course is plainly impermissible. That apart, in our view, instead of the judiciary entering into the domain of the executive, opening up more facilities should be left to the latter's judgment considering the need, if at all, therefore."
Thus, the prayer was rejected and Court directed the Union of India to file an affidavit within an week indicating therein the steps taken by the Western Railway as well as the Central Railway to convert coaches into isolation/quarantine centres, and why ICU facilities in coaches is not considered necessary.
The next date of hearing is July 2.
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