Mumbai: The Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court of Justices Ravindra V Ghuge & Justice B U Debadwar, on Monday, directed a slew of actions including asking citizens to be exercise ‘restraint’ and ‘discipline’ to follow the lockdown regulations while hearing a suo motu public interest litigation. It also directed state authorities to make Rapid Antigen Test kits available at Primary Health Care centres in the Marathwada region and to increase testing.
The bench made it mandatory for any person stepping out of their homes during the lockdown timings, between 11 am and 7 am the next day, to carry an Aadhaar card, and asked police authorities to book those violating it under applicable legal provisions. Only those driving ambulances were exempted from carrying an Aadhaar card. “Even doctors, medical staff and paramedical staff should carry Aadhaar card,” ordered the bench.
“Prima facie it appears that the residents of all the districts of Marathwada need to find restraint and discipline,” said Justice Ghuge and pointed out, “I have seen people riding motorcycles sometimes with three or four persons without wearing masks right outside the high court premises in Aurangabad. Citizens need to have discipline, and cannot blame the government.”
The bench made it mandatory for anyone using a two-wheeler, including the pillion rider, to wear a helmet and a mask failing which it has asked authorities to book the violators.
The bench was specific when it ordered that any person stepping out on the street or in any vehicle should be wearing a mask “covering their nose and mouth”. “Wearing the mask below the nose should be treated as an offence. Such people who wear the mask below the nose are ‘Super Spreaders’ of COVID-19. Those found violating this condition should be booked as per law,” said Justice Ghuge.
The bench also noted that there were attempt by political leaders to extricate lockdown violators. “Any person holding a political post in a corporation, municipal council, zilla parishad or people’s representatives shall not try to extricate lockdown violators from police. If such an act is found, an offence should be registered against that person. The order will also be applicable to a public servant who is not on duty,” ordered justice Shukre.
Then bench also asked Aurangabad and other eight districts authorities in Marathawada region to hold a press conference on a daily basis after 7 pm to give an update on the facilities available to treat COVID-19 patients, including the availability of beds in hospitals. It also called for adequate supplies of vaccine to the districts of Marathawada.
The bench also advised authorities to give publicity to other drugs than Remdesivir to ensure that undue pressure is not put on the production of the drug. “We advise the authorities to give publicity to other drugs like Tocilizumab400, Itolizumab and Virafin to be used, to ensure so that undue load is not put on the production of Remdesivir. Recently, govt of India has granted permission to use Virafin. This is keeping in view that a single injection of Virafin is good enough as compared to six doses of Remdesivir.”
It took note of news reports where private hospitals advised patients to move to other hospitals for lack of oxygen supply, and said that it was “distressing to see this”. The bench also noted that the Aurangabad divisional commissioner had asked private hospital to have their own oxygen plants and appreciated the suggestion made.
“In a case where private hospital approaches the state for permission to have its own oxygen plant, state authorities should not cause any delay in granting permission. But state authorities need to ensure that the oxygen plant is a state-of-art facility and should not cause any incident like the one that happened in Nashik,” ordered the bench.
The bench also expressed its concerns over people having to bribe those in charge of the cremation grounds, and of wood used in funeral pyres being given at exorbitant rates as mentioned in local print media reports, and asked authorities to keep a constant check at cremation grounds to avoid such cases of ‘black marketing’. It also asked divisional commissioners to erect ‘electric crematoriums’ in their jurisdictions. The bench will now hear the suo motu PIL on May 3.
Considering the holy month of Ramzan has commenced on April 13 and Aurangabad authorities have given relaxation for the Muslim community for milk and food between 5pm and 8pm, the bench asked authorities to not register any offence against the Muslim community during the specific period. “We expect all other district collectors to grant relaxation to Muslim community between 5pm and 8pm akin to the Aurangabad collector. These relaxations shall be restricted only to the holy fasting month of Ramzan and shall not be extended there beyond,” order the bench.
Criminal application Sujay Vikhe-Patil:
Advocate Pradnya Talekar moved a criminal application against sitting Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP from Ahmednagar Sujay Vikhe-Patil stating that the politician in a private chartered aircraft had illegally procured 10,000 vials from Delhi and distributing the same to public at large for publicity. Advocate Talekar sought that 10,000 vials be confiscated and be allotted as per the state allocation.
While the bench did not pass any orders it said that authorities could take effective steps as they would have normally taken in their course of duty, and has called for the matter to be heard of April 29.