Mumbai: The Bombay High Court bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish Kulkarni on Wednesday said that lives of several prominent citizens could have been saved if the Union government could have started door-to-door vaccination drive, at least for senior citizens, early. The HC has asked the Union to again reconsider its decision on door-to-door vaccination drive.
The Union government through additional solicitor general Anil Singh has however, sought time till Monday by when the BMC would kickstart its new vaccination drive of vaccine camps in each of the 24 wards across Mumbai, which would aim to inoculate 70,000 citizens from every ward, on a daily basis.
The bench was hearing a PIL filed by advocate Dhruti Kapadia seeking directives to the Union goverment to start a door-to-door inoculation drive for senior citizens and also for the differently-abled and bedridden citizens.
On Wednesday when the matter came up for hearing, Kapadia informed the bench that though drive-in facilities have started for senior citizens yet there are viral photos on social media showing overcrowding at various vaccination centers in the city, which she said would be dangerous. She further pointed out that this facility is only for senior citizens and not for the ones who are on the bed.
At this juncture, Chief Justice Datta said that he along with other senior-most judges of the HC had a meeting with BMC commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal on Monday, wherein the civic chief informed them of his new drive for ensuring more citizens are inoculated.
"The commissioner has said by next Monday this new drive would start wherein there would be some odd 200 centers across all the wards and citizens of each ward can get the jab at the nearest center. Instead of asking citizens to come to the hospitals they are planning to go to the citizens so that they don't have to stand in for hours altogether for their turn," CJ Datta explained.
The chief justice further pointed out that the Union government continues to oppose the door-to-door vaccination drive for senior citizens.
"Mr Singh, we had asked you to reconsider your decision by our orders passed on April 22. But today we see no material to show you have reconsidered your policy," CJ Datta pointed out.
Further, Justice Kulkarni pulled up the Union government for filing the same affidavit it had filed before turning Supreme Court, last week.
An irked Justice Kulkarni said, "Mr ASG you need to understand that if you have had started this door-to-door vaccination drive, earlier then so many of prominent citizens, I don't want to name, could have been saved."
"People from all walks of life have died. The most recent deaths, I am speaking of. I believe vaccination could have helped them to some bit," Justice Kulkarni added.
The judge further spoke of additional government pleader J Mattoos, who passed away on Wednesday morning, after contracting the virus, three days ago.
"Today, there is a very sad news for our fraternity as our AGP Mr Mattoos passed away. He was only 58. It's a really sad thing. You need to work up on vaccination drives," Justice Kulkarni said.
At this, Singh told the bench that the Union government would wait and see how the BMC's ward-wise drive works.
Further, Justice Kulkarni pointed out at a photograph used in a local newspaper, showing a huge line of senior citizens all sitting on wheelchairs. "This picture isn't pleasant to our eyes. It's very disturbing to see senior citizens wait like this for hours. They might end up getting infected," the judge said.
Meanwhile, Kapadia sought directives to the authorities to consider inoculating transgenders, people living on streets, beggers etc without insisting them to show their ID cards as most of them wouldn't have one.
The judges have asked ASG Singh to respond to this aspect also.
The matter has been adjourned for further hearing till Wednesday.