Bombay High Court
Bombay High Court

Mumbai: Taking note of various instances wherein bodies of those expired due to COVID-19 are made to wait for hours together for cremation, the Bombay High Court ordered the Maharashtra government to ensure that the dead-bodies aren't made to wait for cremation. The high court has asked the state to immediately issue directives to all the concerned to ensure that dead bodies aren't released from the hospital until the crematoriums are vacant.

A bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish Kulkarni while hearing a plea filed by Sneha Marjadi regarding various issues pertaining to COVID-19 crisis in the state, noted an incident of Beed district, wherein around 12 dead bodies were stacked in single ambulance.

The judges further said they have come across videos in media showing long queues of dead bodies, waiting for cremation.

"You (State) may file an affidavit on next hearing but by evening order all authorities to ensure that dead bodies aren't made to wait in a crematoriums for their cremation. They can't be made to wait for hours altogether," Justice Kulkarni said.

"Or at least don't release the body until there is space in the crematoriums. Why to make them wait?" the judge added.

At this, the state counsel told the bench that coordination between the crematoriums and hospitals is done by the local bodies and not the government.

Irked over the submission, CJ Datta said, "Don't pass the buck. Its an emergency situation. In fact, now is the time work together, hand-in-hand."

During the hearing, senior counsel Anil Sakhare for BMC told the judges that there is sufficient supply of oxygen and Remdesivir, at least in Mumbai.

"I can say that at least in Mumbai the families of Covid patients aren't made to run from pillar to post. We have sufficient control over oxygen, bed management and even essential drugs," Sakhare submitted.

However, advocate Simil Purohit for Marjadi, told the bench that the situation on ground is much different than what the civic body claims. He told the bench that the issue of bed availability continues to haunt citizens.

At this, CJ Datta asked Purohit to call the 1916 helpline of civic body, which is for enquiring about ICU beds.

Accordingly, Purohit called the number and the civic officials suggested him to contact the local war ward room for them same, which in turn asked him to register first and then the BMC would call him and allot a bed based on his health condition.

The judges, subsequently asked Sakhare to enhance the helpline so that citizens aren't made to make multiple calls.

The judges were further informed that the gas and electric crematoriums in the city are lying dysfunctional.

To this, the bench ordered the civic body to operationalize all these dysfunctional crematoriums at the earliest.

Purohit, further told the bench that the claim of Sakhare that on Monday city recorded some odd 3,000 cases and thus it can be said that numbers are reducing, was not correct. "The numbers aren't reducing. They have reduced the number of tests. On Monday the civic body tested only 28,000 samples which is way less than the usual 60,000 samples it does," the counsel added.

Accordingly the bench ordered Sakhare to submit a detailed affidavit of compliance to it's earlier orders.

As far as state is concerned, the counsel told the bench that Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni couldn't appear before the judges since he is in a meeting with officials regarding compliance of the bench's last order.

The bench expressed displeasure over this reason. "We ourselves sat till midnight to ensure that our orders were available. Why could you not conduct a meeting all these days?" CJ Datta said.

"How much time does it takes to appoint a nodal officer to oversee all the distribution and a proper helpline for availability of Remdesivir. It takes hardly a few hours," Justice Kulkarni added.

The bench accordingly asked the state too to file a detailed affidavit on Thursday.

Central govt

While the matter was about to be adjourned, additional solicitor general Anil Singh appeared for the Union government.

The bench sought to know from him as to how a politician managed to bring in 10,000 vials of Remdesivir and distribute the same.

"We want an answer from the Union on this. How could he get such a huge quantity especially when there is a shortage of the drug," Justice Kulkarni said.

"Won't this amount to privatisation of drug distribution? We want to know how he managed to bring it from Delhi, especially when Delhi itself is under a crisis. Your affidavit must shed light on this too," the judges added.

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