Mumbai: The Bombay High Court bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish Kulkarni on Wednesday called the bluff by the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) minutes after it told the judges that it had sufficient number of beds vacant for treating Covid patients. The high court made two counsels to call on the helpline number of the PMC only to learn that no beds were indeed available.
The PMC was left red-faced after its claim of over 2,000 beds being available turned out to be wrong.
Advocate Abhijit Kulkarni for the PMC submitted an affidavit detailing the active cases, bed availability and other aspects pertaining to the Covid cases in Pune city. This was in pursuance to a directive by the bench in an earlier hearing, wherein the judges had noted the "alarming" situation in Pune owing to Covid19.
Kulkarni told the judges that Pune civic body had conducted highest tests in Maharashtra with over 20,000 tests on a daily basis.
CJ Datta, however, pointed out that the BMC has done more than 28,000 tests earlier.
To this, Kulkarni replied, "We (PMC) cannot compare with Bombay. Our population is around 40 lakhs and we have till now tested samples of over 22 lakh citizens."
During the hearing, the bench noted from the affidavit of PMC that there are over 2,000 beds vacant in various civic hospitals in Pune.
However, advocate Rajesh Inamdar for one of the petitioners, disputed the claim and said he cross checked with the dashboard shown on the PMC website and the numbers are different.
"For instance, Mr Kulkarni says there are five ventilator beds available at the moment but the helpline number doesn't say so. Even the dashboard shows a different number. It shows 27 ventilator beds are available," Inamdar told the judges.
This made the judges to cross-check the claims of both the counsels and accordingly Justice Kulkarni asked Inamdar to once again call the helpline number and seek a ventilator bed.
As per the directive, Inamdar called the helpline number and kept his cellphone on speaker mode. The PMC official, who answered the call, on being asked about bed availability said there were no ventilator beds as of now and asked to call back later.
However, defending the PMC's claims Kulkarni said that this isn't the correct procedure to ask for a ventilator bed. He said that the specifics of the patient need to be given to the helpline official who answers the call.
Accordingly, Chief Justice Datta made another counsel Nitin Deshpande to again call the helpline and give certain specifics and ask for a ventilator bed.
Calling on the speaker mode, Deshpande told the PMC official, who answered the call, that he needs a ventilator bed on urgent basis as his patient's oxygen saturation level has dropped beyond 85. However, the official said there are no vacant ventilator beds.
PMC counsel Kulkarni made yet another attempt to save the civic body's face. He said it is not these officials but a doctor, who can give ventilator bed that is only after checking the patient properly.
An irked CJ questioned Kulkarni about the discrepancy in the numbers.
"These matters require intense sensitivity. You cannot expect citizens to wait for your call like this," CJ said.
"The commissioner should know that his job isn't over by just filing an affidavit. He has to ensure that the people for whom the corporation exists are treated with sensitivity and not like this," the chief justice remarked.
However, by the end of the day, advocate Kulkarni again appeared before the bench and said that he spoke with PMC chief and he has assured that the data would be updated soon.
"The PMC commissioner has assured that within a few days the data would be updated and would now show real-time data. We will also sensitise the officials of helpline number and train them on how to deal with calls for beds or other queries and how to go through the data," Kulkarni submitted.
While posting the matter for hearing on Wednesday, CJ Datta said, "We will cross-check these claims again on next date."