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Centre's Order Reducing Oxygen Supply Hit Maharashtra As A Bolt From Blue : Bombay High Court Directs Restoration Of Earlier Quantity

Sharmeen Hakim
22 April 2021 2:55 AM GMT
Centres Order Reducing Oxygen Supply Hit Maharashtra As A Bolt From Blue : Bombay High Court Directs Restoration Of Earlier Quantity
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Taking strong exception to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare's communication which cut down the oxygen supply to Maharashtra, the Bombay High Court(Nagpur Bench) directed on Wednesday night that the oxygen supply should continue as before.The Court was referring to the communication dated April 18 issued by the Ministry, which cut down the oxygen supply to Nagpur from a plant...

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Taking strong exception to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare's communication which cut down the oxygen supply to Maharashtra, the Bombay High Court(Nagpur Bench) directed on Wednesday night that the oxygen supply should continue as before.

The Court was referring to the communication dated April 18 issued by the Ministry, which cut down the oxygen supply to Nagpur from a plant in Bhilai(Chhattisgarh) as 60 metric tonnes from 110 metric tonnes.

The Court said that this communication from the Union Ministry "has hit the State of Maharashtra as a bolt from the blue".

A division bench of Justices Sunil Sukre and SM Modak questioned the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare for reducing the supply of oxygen to Maharashtra from the Bhilai Plant despite the State bearing the load of 40% Covid19 patients in India, and directed restoration of supply.

"In this situation of emergency where 40% of the patients are from Maharashtra, respondent no. 3 (CDSCO) should have increased the supply of Oxygen to 200-300 MT. Unfortunately, things have gone in a reverse manner. Considering the dire need for Oxygen, we restore 110 MT supply of O2 from the Bhilai plant to Maharashtra".

After an urgent sitting held at 8 PM on Wednesday night, the bench ordered that the supply of oxygen to Nagpur from Bhilai should continue as 110 MT as per earlier practice, notwithstanding the communication issued by the Union Ministry.

"...we direct that notwithstanding the communication dated 18.4.2021 issued by theMinistry of Health and Family Welfare, PRAX AIR -Bhilai shall continue to supply 110 metric tons of liquid oxygen to the State of Maharashtra until further orders"

Significantly, the court passed several other directions while hearing its Suo Motu PIL on the adequate supply of what is considered to be a life-saving drug Remdesivir and what is considered a lifeline of Covid patients – Oxygen supply.

Supply of Remdesivir

After expressing anguish over the non-compliance of its order, the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court ensured Maharashtra's Vidarbha region receives its share (12,404 vials) of Remdesivir injection and the State its share of oxygen, in an urgent hearing on Wednesday night.

On April 19 Court directed 10,000 vials of Remdesivir to be supplied to Nagpur District by the end of the day on an application through Advocate Tushar Mandlekar, however, the Bench was livid at the evasive answers given by the officials, for not complying with its order.

"If you don't feel ashamed of yourself, we are feeling ashamed of ourselves for being part of such a nasty society. We are not able to do anything for the helpless patients of Maharashtra. You don't have any solution?," the Bench observed before directing officials to meet and come up with a concrete solution for the non-availability of Remdesivir by 8 pm. Wednesday.

During the urgent sitting, the District Commissioner, FDA, tendered a break up of the vials that would be supplied by each of the seven Remdesivir manufacturers, informing the bench that 5652 vials have been received between April 19 and April 21, and 6520 vials will be given by tonight, latest by Thursday morning.

The Bench noted the Divisional Commissioner of Nagpur's submissions that the vials will be equitably distributed.

In view of the above, we direct the nodal authority to distribute the vials in Nagpur among all govt and private hospitals latest by tomorrow evening.

ASGI UM Aurangabadkar for the Union submitted that the total production capacity of all the seven companies is 88 lakh vials per month. Other experts present at the hearing opined that this production was sufficient to cater to all serious patients in India, especially Nagpur.

Therefore, if manufacturers were directed to streamline their supply process to all States in India, there would be no shortage of Remdesivir drug and it will eventually eliminate the malpractice of sale of these drugs in the black-market.

The Bench then directed the ASGI to obtain instructions from the Ministry regarding steps taken by them under the Drugs Control Act and other relevant Acts to ensure fair and equal distribution of this drug not only to Maharashtra or Vidarbha region of Maharashtra, but to the entire nation.

The Bench directed the Commissioner of CDSCO to appear before it physically or virtually and apprise the court of steps taken by him to ensure proper supply of this drug to the entire nation and to avoid unnecessary hoarding of this drug.

We hope these directions would bring some relief to distressed patients in Nagpur and Vidarbha region by tomorrow.

The Joint Commissioner of FDA, Nagpur has been directed to take action against black marketers and supply 100 vials to Government Medical College and Hospital, Nagpur as the Dean hasn't received a single vial despite 900 patients. We request the Dean to send a message to the Registrar of the High Court about the compliance of this order.

Don't disrupt Oxygen supply to Maharashtra

Regarding the supply of oxygen, the court noted that the scenario is disappointing. According to figures, the total requirement of oxygen in Nagpur is 166.5 metric tonnes and other districts of the Vidarbha region is 66-100 MT.

Nagpur has certain oxygen plants bearing an Oxygen generation capacity of 146 (MT). Of this, Bhilai Steel Plant generates and supplies 110 MT to the entire state of Maharashtra. This has been reduced to 60 MT by an order dated 18/4/21 issued by DG MoHFW.

There is a shortfall of about 100 MT between the demand and supply of oxygen. The communication has hit Maharashtra...Considering the dire need for O2, we restore 110 MT supply of O2 from the Bhilai plant to Maharashtra.

The Bench directed Jt. Commissioner of FDA Nagpur that there should be no breakdown of the supply of Oxygen in Nagpur. In case if any hospital is short of oxygen, then they may contact the Divisional Commissioner/FDA Jt. Commissioner/Collector of Nagpur.

A 1000 Bed Hospital

The Court lauded the efforts of Dr. Sanjeev Kumar, the Divisional Commissioner, Nagpur, after he informed the court that steps are being taken to provide Covid treatment facilities to the patients near Lloyd Steel Plant at Wardha and modalities are being worked out and capacity of this hospital could be around 1000 to 1500 beds. He also informed the court that for the next 20 to 30 days, the administration expects that substantial progress in this regard would have been done.

[Suo-Motu P.I.L. No.4 of 2020 (Court on its own motion vs. Union of India and Ors.]

Click here to read/download the order






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