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Maharashtra: High Court raps officials for not complying with Remdesivir order

The bench of Justices Sunil Shukre and Avinash Gharote summoned top officials, including Divisional Commissioner Sanjiv Kumar, Nagpur Collector Ravindra Thakre, Municipal Commissioner Radhakrishnan B and Joint Commissioner Vijay Kose during the course of the hearings.

Written by Vivek Deshpande | Nagpur |
Updated: April 22, 2021 5:41:03 am
After the final hearing, the bench directed the Drug Controller of India to join the next hearing on Friday.

UPSET WITH non-compliance with its April 19 order to supply 10,000 Remdesivir injections to Nagpur by 8 pm on that day, the Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court on Wednesday pulled up senior officials over the issue during the course of three hearings which began in the afternoon and extended till around 10.30 pm.

The bench comprising Justice Sunil Shukre and Justice Avinash Gharote summoned top officials, including Divisional Commissioner Sanjiv Kumar, Nagpur Collector Ravindra Thakre, Municipal Commissioner Radhakrishnan B and Joint Commissioner Vijay Kose during the course of the hearings.

The bench began the first hearing around 2.30 pm with Justice Shukre admonishing the officials for not supplying the requisite quantity of Remdesivir as earlier directed by the bench. It put off the hearing in less than 30 minutes, asking the officials to come up with proper explanation and data at 4 pm.

The second hearing went on for about an hour. Apparently dissatisfied with the response, the bench adjourned the hearing again and asked the officials to immediately convene a meeting of the district Covid committee under the Divisional Commissioner and come out with clear information about the supply of the antiviral drug and its sources. The bench asked the officials to come to the court again at 8 pm and place before it answers to the questions raised by it.

The third hearing lasted till around 10.30 pm during which the bench discussed the issues with officials and issued a direction to the Drug Controller of India to join the next hearing on Friday for his version on drug availability.

In a rare departure, the court issued two orders in the day, first after the second hearing and the second one after the third hearing at night. In the first order, the bench observed, “We have had an extensive hearing of this matter. However, so far no concrete solution could be found regarding deficiency in supply of Remdesivir drug and also oxygen to Covid hospitals in the city of Nagpur as well as in all the hospitals situated in the entire Vidarbha region.”

“It has been informed to the Court by Mr Kose, Joint Commissioner, FDA that there are seven manufacturers of the said drug and these companies send stock of Remdesivir to their depots situated at Nagpur and from these depots, the drug is supplied all over Vidarbha region as per requirements. It is informed by him that the problem has arisen owing to the fact that there is shortage in supply of these drugs by the manufacturers and therefore, there is also shortage in making available these drugs to all the Covid hospitals.”

“We had issued directions to the state on April 19 to release 10,000 vials of Remdesivir to Nagpur immediately. But only partially this direction has been complied with. Several reasons are given for non-compliance. On perusal of the affidavits filed by the Joint Commissioner, FDA and the Additional Collector, Nagpur, we find that contradictory statements are made therein. We also find that these officers have now started to shirk their responsibilities in giving succour and relief to Covid-19 patients,” the court observed.

“However, at this juncture, we would not like to pass any further order in the matter and we would like to give an opportunity to the authorities at the helm of affairs to correct themselves. Accordingly, we would request Nagpur Covid-19 committee to hold an emergency meeting immediately today itself and come back to the court with some positive response. This court would not be satisfied with mere supply of outcome of the meeting,” the bench said.

After the third hearing, in its second order of the day, the bench , “The country’s seven Remdesivir producing companies manufacture 88 lakh injections per month, which should be sufficient for the country. We direct the Drug Controller of India to appear before us physically or virtually and apprise this court of the steps taken by him to ensure proper supply of this drug to the entire nation and to provide unnecessary hoarding of this drug.”

On Monday, hearing a suo motu PIL, the court had said that there seemed to be no rationale governing the distribution of Remdesevir to different centres and had specifically referred to Thane district getting proportionately much higher number of doses than Nagpur district despite the latter having over 8,000 beds.

On Wednesday, the bench also expressed displeasure on the issue of oxygen supply. “Coming to the issue of supply of oxygen, the scenario is once again disappointing. According to figures, the total requirement of oxygen in Nagpur is 166.5 metric tonnes and other districts of Vidarbha region is 66 metric tonnes. We have been informed that Nagpur has certain oxygen generating units and their total capacity is 146 metric tonnes per day.”

The court also took note of the fact that supply of liquid oxygen from the Bhilai Steel Plant had reduced. “Things have turned in a reverse manner. Instead of increasing the supply of liquid oxygen, the supply has been decreased. There is dire need of oxygen in Maharashtra. The earlier practice of supply of 110 metric tonnes shall continue even now,” it said.

Referring to some private hospitals in Nagpur refusing to take patients due to lack of oxygen, the bench said, “There should be no lack of oxygen supply to hospitals in Nagpur. If any hospital runs low then they shall bring it to the notice of the Joint Commissioner, FDA Nagpur, Divisional Commissioner Nagpur and Nagpur Covid-19 committee.

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