MUMBAI: The Bombay High Court on Wednesday directed the Maharashtra government and the Centre to file affidavits explaining how celebrities and politicians were procuring anti-COVID-19 drugs, medical oxygen and other relief materials for coronavirus patients.
A bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice GS Kulkarni had asked for such details last week as well from the the Maharashtra government and the Centre, who faced flak during hearing for non-compliance of previous orders.
However, on Wednesday the state government submitted a report merely saying it had served show cause notices (on procuring COVID-19 relief materials) to Mumbai Congress MLA Zeeshan Siddique and the Sood Charity Foundation (an NGO of actor Sonu Sood), but was yet to receive their replies.
Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh told the HC the Union government had not filed any report since procurement and distribution of Remdesivir (a key COVID-19 drug) and medical oxygen, among other items, were the prerogative of a state and the Centre merely allocated such resources to states based on the latter's demands.
The bench took an exception to the responses of the state government and the Centre (represented by Singh). The HC said it had expected better replies and compliance of its previous orders from both the respondents.
"These persons (celebrities) have no licence (to procure COVID-19 drugs, medical oxygen), who will take the guarantee? There should have been a report. You (the state government)) have only issued show cause notices, we said place a report on this. We are not happy with this," the HC said.
The bench said its primary concern was that the needy must not miss out on getting relief since all were not in a position to make appeals on social media. "Who will guarantee that drugs being given by these personalities are of proper quality?" the HC said.
"The allocation is by UOI (Union of India), collection is by State, then where is the window for collection or procurement by these personalities? That is our anxiety," the bench observed. The HC directed the state and the Centre to file their detailed reply affidavits by next week.
It also directed the Maharashtra government to submit details on the requirements for medical oxygen (needed to treat serious COVID-19 patients) and Remdesivir, among other items, across the state, the supplies it was receiving from the Centre and other entities.
The HC was hearing a bunch of public interest litigations (PILs) on the management of issues connected to the COVID-19 pandemic. It also praised the model devised by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to tackle the infection spread, procure, produce and store oxygen, and anti-COVID-19 drugs.
Senior Counsel Anil Sakhare, who appeared for the BMC, told the bench that the civic body was making arrangements for vaccinating citizens and improving paediatrics health infrastructure in Mumbai (in view of a possible third COVID-19 wave).
He said the BMC had invited a global expression of interest for procuring 1 crore doses of COVID-19 vaccines. "Bombay (Mumbai) corporation has had unique vision since ages," the HC said. The court will continue hearing the PILs on May 25.