Bombay High Court
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Bombay HC asks railways to respond on steps taken to convert coaches into Isolation/ COVID-19 Quarantine Centres

The Court has sought an affidavit from the Centre detailing steps taken by the Railways towards converting coaches into isolation/quarantine centres, as well as on the viability of ICUs onboard.

Lydia Suzanne Thomas

A PIL relating to the control and management of the COVID-19 crisis in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) was taken up by the Bombay High Court yesterday (Naresh Kapoor v. Union of India and Ors).

The petitioner, Naresh Kapur, represented by Advocate Prerak Choudhary, sought the Court’s intervention in directing the State and Union Governments inter alia,

  • to make rapid test kits widely available across MMR,

  • to reopen non-functioning hospitals whose licences have expired and/or are the subject of litigation/other proceedings to increase the number of beds,

  • to reopen private nursing homes and dispensaries that are presently shut,

  • to allow private medical practitioners to prescribe COVID-19 Tests,

  • to upload the status of the availability of beds online in ‘Real-Time’ so no patient is denied a bed,

  • To ensure that the railway transport of patients between places is medically suitable and, if necessary, coaches are converted to makeshift ICUs.

The petitioner had approached the Court after seeing reports in newspapers, and on social media describing the COVID-19 situation in Mumbai.

In particular, the petitioner mentions a Tweet narrating the plight of a woman who tested positive for the coronavirus but was unable to get admitted to a COVID-19 hospital. The post further states that the woman subsequently died in an ambulance.

Several other Twitter posts and news articles on the non-availability of beds were highlighted in the Petitioner’s PIL writ.

The Advocate-General for the State of Maharashtra, AA Kumbhkoni presented Circulars on the use of rapid-testing kits and the guidelines to be followed by private medical practitioners when prescribing tests.

The Circular on the use of rapid-testing kits was issued by the Maharashtra Government while the one specifying guidelines for private practitioners was released by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).

The Court, therefore, declined further discussion on the subject rapid testing kits, but stated that it proposed to deal with the private practitioner guidelines in the next hearing of the petition.

Notably, Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and MS Karnik sought an affidavit from the Centre detailing steps taken by the Railways towards converting coaches into isolation/quarantine centres, as well as on the viability of ICUs onboard.

As for the prayer to reopen non-functioning hospitals and private nursing homes, the Bench noted that it was already dealt with by the Court in a June 12 order (Jan Swasthya Abhiyan and Anr. v. State of Maharahstra and Ors).

In that case, the Court had declined to make any direction to “derail the system” that has been put in place by the State, noting its satisfaction with the measures taken by the State in ensuring availability of beds.

The State had told the Court that around 80% of beds in private/charitable hospitals were reserved for treatment of COVID-19 patients, with 20% reserved for the patients with straitened means. Additionally, the Court permitted the State to take punitive action against hospitals found violating directives.

“Having given our thoughtful consideration to the point canvassed by Mr.Desai, we are not inclined to make any direction which might derail the system in place. However, we grant full liberty to the State to take such punitive action in accordance with law against the erring hospitals, who fail to comply with the directive, as the situation would warrant.”

Chief Justice Datta in the Jan Swasthya Abhiyan case

The remaining issues are expected to be taken up for hearing on July 2. The petition in the instant case has been filed through Advocates Prerak Choudhary and Jigar Kamdar.

Read the Order:

Naresh Kapoor v. Union of India and Ors - Bom HC Order.pdf

Read the Petition:

Naresh Kapoor v. Union of India and Ors - Bombay HC Petition.pdf
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