Mumbai: A bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish Kulkarni of the Bombay High Court, on Thursday, ordered the Maharashtra government to consider imposing at least a 15-day lockdown like last year. The high court also said that it would be wrong only to blame the authorities as citizens too are responsible for this second wave of the COVID-19 virus.
The bench said people returning from Kumbh Mela and even West Bengal and other states are “callous” if they do not get themselves tested for the virus. The observations were made while hearing a bunch of petitions highlighting the Covid crisis and the shortage of various essentials like Remdesivir, Tocilizumab and even oxygen.
While the bench said it would consider all these issues on Tuesday as the affidavits filed by state, centre and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) weren't perused by the judges, advocate Rajesh Inamdar for one of the intervenors sought a directive to the authorities to conduct proper contact tracing of the ones, who have returned recently from Kumbh Mela.
Irked over the request, the chief justice said the state has already put in place a mechanism wherein any citizen, who comes from other states has to show a Covid negative report. "We ourselves got tested at Goa airport last month when we were there for some function," CJ Datta said.
"It is also for the people to be conscious and to show some caring attitude for the fellow men. Blaming only the authorities won't work when the resources are limited," the chief justice added. The bench further questioned Inamdar if it wasn't the duty of citizens entering Maharashtra to get tested first.
"Isn't it the duty of those returning from Kumbh Mela to get themselves tested? They are callous people if they aren't getting tested," the chief justice remarked. At this, Justice Kulkarni pointed out that on April 22, the bench had made adverse observations against citizens for failing to obey the Covid norms and follow the precautions.
"You (citizens) want everything. You want to have Kumbh, weddings, festivals. You also don't want to follow restrictions. If the authorities are doing their work but citizens aren't following the norms then the citizens are waiting for a third wave?" Justice Kulkarni observed.
"Then they (citizens) will hunt for beds, oxygen, drugs etc," the judge added. During the course of the hearing, the bench sought to know from Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni if the restrictions the state has imposed this year, were effective.
Even before AG could respond, CJ Datta said, "Absolutely not. The present restrictions aren't working much. We can see people are still coming out of their homes unnecessarily." "Mr. Kumbhakoni, you should advise your government to impose at least a 15-day lockdown just like last year. Let everyone of us stay indoors for 15 days, if we want some progressive results," the chief justice said.
Further, the bench referred to the viral video of an octogenarian man in Nagpur giving up his bed for a middle-aged man saying that he (old man) has lived his life. "There is no doubt that the octogenarian did a great sacrifice. We salute him for that. But what about your (state) health system? How does it reflects on your part?" the chief justice questioned.
"Had we woken up to the situation early, both the men could have been saved? Had we been a bit more vigilant, situation could have been different," the CJ added. The bench further remarked that for the situation prevailing today one cannot blame a state or central or local government bodies individually and in fact it is a "collective failure."
Give time slots for vaccine beneficiaries: Bombay High Court
The bench while hearing the matter, pointed out to additional solicitor general Anil Singh that the overcrowded vaccination centers is a matter of concern. It referred to the grievance raised by senior counsel Mihir Desai, who returned home without taking the jab as the center had "mismanaged' crowd of more than 500.
"Imagine what would happen from May 1 when youngsters would come up. You (Union government) can consider giving time slots for everyone. So that everyone doesn't throng upon these centers at the same time," the judges suggested.
Save Parsis, urges Bombay High Court
Meanwhile, during the hearing, the bench noted that most of the Parsis live in Mumbai, and of these majority are above the age group of 70 years. "You (State) have to save them. Most of the members of this community are senior citizens. They might not be able to visit the centers. What is your plan on this?" the judges asked AG Kumbhakoni.
In his response, Kumbhakoni pointed out an interview of Adar Poonawalla, the head of Serum Institute of India (SII), the firm which has developed the Covishield vaccine. "He (Poonawalla) has in an interview stated that he would reserve certain number of vaccines for his community. We are not against this idea in fact we support it," Kumbhakoni told the bench. "However, the community isn't ready to accept the proposal. They have clearly said that they will wait till their turn comes," the AG added.