The Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court of Justices Ravindra Ghuge and Bhalachandra Debadwar on Tuesday expressed concern over the "dysfunctional" ventilators supplied by the Union government under the Prime Minister's Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations (PM CARES) funds. The bench said the issue is "quite serious" and accordingly ordered the Union government to clarify it's stand on the issue.
The bench has further asked political parties not to give a political color to the issue of dysfunctional ventilators.
The bench was seized with a suo motu criminal petition taken up owing to the Covid crisis in Marathwada region.
On Tuesday, when the matter came up before the bench, D R Kale, the chief public prosecutor told the judges about the dysfunctional ventilators provided by the Union government under the PM CARES fund.
As per Kale, a total of 150 ventilators were supplied by the Union to the authorities in Aurangabad district. He submitted that a company - Jyoti CNC has manufactured these 150 ventilators with the model name ‘Dhaman III’.
Of these 150 ventilators, 17 were put to use in the government medical college and hospital Aurangabad, all of which had six flaws in total.
Noting the flaws, the bench noted, "Each of these flaws would impact the treatment process of the patients. Two appear to be extremely serious flaws pertaining to ‘no in-let O2 pressure’ display and ‘patient becoming hypoxic’ when on ventilator. These could be life-threatening."
Further, Kale informed the bench that 55 ventilators were distributed to hospitals in Hingoli, Osmanabad, Beed and Parbhani districts. All of them too had flaws.
A total of 41 ventilators were given to five private hospitals in Aurangabad itself with a condition that they shouldn't charge fees of the same. However all these ventilators are not put to use given their flaws.
Lastly, Kale submitted that 37 more ventilators aren't unboxed yet.
Having noted the issue, Justice Ghuge in his orders said, "We find the situation as regards the dysfunctional ventilators supplied through the PM Cares Fund, to be quite serious."
"We, therefore, call upon the Union government as to what action would it initiate in these circumstances," the bench ordered.
However, additional solicitor general Ajay Talhar sought time to respond to the issue.
While allowing the Union to respond latest by May 28, the judges said, "We expect the ASG to be prepared to address this issue as well as the remedial steps to be taken."
During the hearing, amicus curiae (friend of court) advocate Satyajit Bora told the court that several politicians are found to be inspecting the faulty ventilators and making public statements.
Bora pointed out that politicians from certain parties are claiming that the ventilators are in good condition and are efficient enough to be put to use. He argued that these politicians aren't "medical experts" to speak about functioning of the ventilators.
Irked over this, the bench said, "We express our displeasure as regards such indulgence by the peoples representatives. This is likely to cause more botheration to the medical faculty than render any assistance."
"Contrary statements are being issued by the politicians which we find distasteful as some politicians have visited the hospital, posing as if they have the knowledge and the expertise to inspect the ventilators and recommend correctional steps. We would appreciate it if political colour is not attached to this issue of dysfunctional ventilators," Justice Ghuge said.