The Bombay High Court bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish Kulkarni on Wednesday slammed the Union government for dragging its feet over allowing door-to-door vaccination drive for senior citizens, differently abled and bedridden persons. The HC has now asked the BMC to spell out if it would conduct the door-to-door drive, if so, then the court would permit the civic body to proceed despite the Union's opposition.
The bench was hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by advocate Dhruti Kapadia seeking directives to the authorities to allow door-to-door inoculation drives for the elderly and bedridden citizens.
On Wednesday, additional solicitor general Anil Singh submitted a brief note spelling out the decision of the Union government appointed expert committee that recommend against door-to-door vaccination.
Just when Singh tried to read out from the note the decision of the committee, CJ Datta interrupted saying, "There would 100 reasons for no door-to-door vaccination, we would want to see at least one such reason."
Accordingly, the ASG continued reading the decision which included reasons like need to have an ICU facility to attend the patient in case of any adverse effect post inoculation, 30-minutes observation etc. He said that the expert committee has considered the issue.
However, CJ Datta said the experts have no connection with the ground reality. "They are experts but seem to have zero knowledge about ground reality. I can say this because in North Kolkata, there are places wherein even a stretcher cannot be taken in forget an ambulance. How would you then bring a bedridden person out for the jab?"
With no positive response from the ASG, an irked CJ Datta sought to know from the counsels present in the court hall, as to who appears for the BMC. "Whoever appears for the BMC step up. We want to know from you right away if you are ready for door-to-door vaccination drive. Come forward and help our senior citizens," CJ Datta said.
"Also, you (BMC) need not worry about the Union. If Union government isn't allowing you to proceed, we will permit you by our orders," CJ Datta said.
At this, Kapadia told the bench that the civic body in fact had sought permissions from the Union for door-to-door inoculation drives but the same was turned down. She further added that the civic body can consider obtaining a consent from the relatives of such patients so that if there is any adverse effect then no one could be blamed for it.
A counsel appearing for BMC stood up and told the bench that she would need instructions from the officials on this. "The possibility of medical emergency and importance of monitoring must be considered," the counsel submitted.
Accordingly, the chief justice adjourned the hearing by a day for the BMC commissioner to respond if the civic body would proceed with door-to-door.
"We will say that the Union government may not be willing to give you the green signal but we will give you the green signal," CJ said while adjourning the matter till Thursday afternoon.
Meanwhile, Kapadia pointed out that the state government has come up with SOPs on May 14 allowing inoculation of people, who don't have id cards. She pointed out that the SOPs lacked on the ground that it only provides for identification of such individuals online. She further pinned holes in the SOPs by the state.
However, the bench said that it would see how these SOPs are implemented first.