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Bombay HC suggests temporary ban on cigarette sale during pandemic

The court said it was of the opinion of consideration of such a ban by the governments as the Covid-19 virus affects the lungs and weak lungs are severely affected.

Written by Omkar Gokhale | Mumbai |
Updated: April 23, 2021 8:12:41 pm
Cigarettes, smokingThe HC said every infected person is undergoing 'stress and trauma,' and that the suffering of those who are critically ill cannot be described. (File Photo)

Suggesting a temporary ban on sale of cigarettes and bidis during the pandemic, the Bombay High Court on Thursday sought a response from the Centre and state government on the same along with data on Covid-19 patients addicted to smoking.

The court said it was of the opinion of consideration of such a ban by the governments as the Covid-19 virus affects the lungs and weak lungs are severely affected.

The court also directed the Maharashtra government to ensure all possible steps to make Remdesivir available to Covid-19 patients, stating that the patients or relatives will not be made to run from pillar to post to find the drug.

The judges also stressed on the need for citizens to strictly follow prescribed measures and Covid-19 protocols.

While the court heard the PIL seeking effective Covid-19 management at length on Thursday, the detailed order was made available on Friday.

“We are equally concerned as to whether the persons who are affected by Covid -19 and have become critical are persons smoking cigarettes and bidis, as it is by now well-known that the Covid-19 virus affects the lungs and weak lungs are affected more severely,” the HC noted.

Observing that no information on the effect of Covid-19 on smokers was available in the public domain from the Centre or state government, the bench added, “If this is an issue which would matter and is fatal to the health of the citizens, we are of the opinion that measures would be required to be taken to ban sale of cigarettes and bidis during the pandemic time.”

A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish S Kulkarni passed directions on a PIL filed by Mumbai-based lawyer Sneha Marjadi and argued through advocates Simil Purohit and Arshil Shah, alleging that insufficient facilities are leading to violation of fundamental rights of the people, including right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution.

The petitioner raised concerns over scarcity of Remdesivir drug, shortage of oxygen supply, Covid-19 bed management and delay in conducting RT-PCR or Rapid Antigen Tests to detect Covid infection.

The HC expressed “pain over scarcity” of Remdesivir and said that it would not have arisen except for the sudden surge in cases due to the second wave, “which was possibly not in anticipation about two months back”.

The bench ordered that Remdesivir be made available to patients directly at the hospital or a Covid centres and said, “To ensure the availability of the drug a Nodal Agent with the helpline number with adequate staff at its disposal to undertake the supply of the drug at the required hospital/Covid centre shall be appointed.”

The court noted that it would be an “absolute obligation” of the state government to keep the helpline number in operation all over Maharashtra for 24 hours.

The bench passed various other directions to the state government including a portal and a helpline number for availability of beds in all hospitals, and considering permissions for more Covid testing laboratories. Directing the state government to ensure measures for increasing and regulating oxygen supply to all hospitals, the HC asked it to notify a mechanism to identify specific needs of hospitals at different places.

The HC will hear the PIL next on May 4.

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