FPJ Legal: Petition before Bombay HC blames Centre's unpaid bills for shortage of essential COVID-19 drugs
(PTI Photo)

The Bombay High Court bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish Kulkarni was on Thursday informed that the union government has failed to clear the bills of countries shipping tocilizumab, an essential drug to treat COVID19 patients. As a result, the nations concerned have stopped supply. The bench has ordered the union Health Ministry to respond to this contention. The bench was seized with a bunch of petitions highlighting the crisis arising out of the pandemic.

Advocate Rajesh Inamdar, representing one of the petitioners, told the bench that there is a serious scarcity of tocilizumab in India. He attributed the acute shortage to unpaid bills. Counsel for the Union government, D P Singh, however, denied allegations.

Chief Justice Datta ordered, “You (union) say this in an affidavit. File a proper affidavit in response to this contention.”

The bench was further informed that besides tocilizumab, there is also a shortage of the new drug recently released by the DRDO. Inamdar submitted, “Despite shortages, doctors are prescribing these drugs. As a result, family members of patients have to run from pillar to post to procure them.”

During the hearing, Chief Justice Datta noted that there appears to be a lowering of the guard on part of the state. He said, “Just because the numbers of COVID-19 cases have gone down, doesn’t mean you will lower your guard. Don’t become complacent because numbers are coming down.”

Meanwhile, the bench sought information from the state about its earlier query on whether smoking worsens or increases the risk of COVID-19, as both attack the lungs.

In response, Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni told the bench that several manufacturers have approached him saying that smoking doesn’t trigger COVID-19. The Chief Justice remarked, “Mr AG, smoking attacks lungs and so does COVID-19. These manufacturers may say anything, but that doesn’t mean the state will accept their word.” Kumbhakoni assured that a proper response would be filed on the next date.

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