Mumbai: The Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court on Friday came down heavily on Maharashtra state for not able to streamline the process of procuring and distributing Remdesivir to various districts in the state.
A bench of Justices Sunil Shukre and Avinash Gharote, while hearing a suo motu Public Interest Litigation (PIL) on the shortage of oxygen, Remdesivir and other essential drugs and amenities to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, also ordered the Maharashtra government to dispense the tender process to procure Remdesivir faster.
The judges further ordered the state to ensure there is no private purchasing of Remdesivir or any other drugs essentially used for treating Covid patients. The bench referred to the provisions of the Epidemic Diseases Act and also the Disaster Management Act and said, "The provisions of these laws empower the state to requisition any thing that is essential during a pandemic or a natural calamity. We are of the opinion that the state can requisition Remdesivir."
"Doing away with the tender process would cut down the 15 to 20 days time period spent in procuring the drugs. Also, banning a private purchase would ensure that the gap between demand and supply (of Remdesivir) doesn't widen," the judges added.
This specific directive was issued after the bench noted that the Haffkine Institute, which places orders for Remdesivir by floating tenders, takes more than 15 days to procure the drug.
During the course of the hearing, the bench specifically sought to know from Vijay Waghmare, the nodal officer of the state for allocation and distribution of Remdesivir, as to how was the drug being distributed.
The bench pointed out that Jalna district on Thursday got 30,000 vials of the drug despite the fact that its case load (of patients) was around 10,000. It also pointed out that on the same day Bhandara received only 80 vials for 29 of its hospitals.
Noting that Waghmare was giving vague and evasive responses, the judges said, "We all have a duty to protect lives under right to life as envisaged in the Constitution. We don't want anyone to fail in doing their duties. If someone fails to perform their duties, we will ensure they do it. We might even order an FIR against those who fail to do their duties."
The judges further said that the state has "utterly failed" in devising a proper formula for allocating and distributing the Remdesivir in each district based on their entitlement and requirement.
"Why don't you (state) follow the formula that is being used by the Union goverment. Why can't you use that formula for your districts?" Justice Gharote sought to know.
At this Waghmare said the state has no idea as to on what basis the Union has come up with that formula. "We don't want to know how they calculated. If you can't follow them then ensure you have a better formula," Justice Shukre said.
"All we need is a proper district wise plan for distributing the essential drugs to each district as per its entitlement," Justice Shukre added.
The bench even warned the authorities that it might initiate criminal proceedings against them if people continue to die due to shortage or no proper supply of essentials.