POSTED ON MAY 29, 2021

The court noted that it would be better if the affidavit avoided the blame game and showed sensitivity towards Covid-19 patients

The Bombay High Court (Aurangabad Bench) pulled up the Modi Government for defending defective ventilator manufacturer, Jyoti CNC, and for claiming that the doctors and paramedics are not properly trained to operate them.

According to a LiveLaw report, Justices Ravindra Ghuge and BU Debadwar said that the Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, G.K. Pillai, who filed the affidavit, should have avoided playing the “blame game” and shown sensitivity towards Covid-19 patients.

During the last hearing on May 25, the Bench had observed, “We find a serious issue before us as regards the defective functioning of the ventilators. Except the 37 ventilators which are yet to be un-boxed, 113 ventilators put to use are found to be defective…We find the above situation as regards the dysfunctional ventilators supplied through the PM Cares Fund, to be quite serious. We, therefore, call upon the learned ASGI to state, as to what action would the Union of India initiate in these circumstances.”

Today, the Central Government reportedly submitted that the 150 ventilators in question were supplied through “Make-in-India and not through the PMCARES Fund.” To this, the court remarked, “We would have appreciated, had that affiant (author of the affidavit) avoided entering into a blame game and would have shown sensitivity towards the patients, it being the paramount object of a welfare state to take care of the health of its citizens.”

The Division Bench further asked the Health Ministry to respect the reports from medical experts, which claimed the ventilators were defective, and concentrate on rectifying it. LiveLaw quoted it saying, “We will also appreciate if the MOHFW refrains from questioning the reports of medical experts and respect such reports in the larger interest of society, rectifying the said machines. We are unable to accept the contentions of the ASGI that the ventilators are in perfect operating conditions, and it is the hospitals who do not have trained personnel to operate them properly. The affidavit before us has a semblance of virtually defending the manufacturer and declaring the ventilators are in immaculate condition.”

Further slamming the Centre’s affidavit, the Bench opined, “We find such statements to be demonstrating insensitivity on the part of MOHFW. Instead of expressing wholehearted support to ensure that such machines are put to optimum utilization in the interest of the lives of the patients, it appears that the affiant found it advantageous to contend that there is no merit in the report of the dean of the Government Medical College (GMCH)”.

The Bench then asked the Additional Solicitor General of India, Ajay Talhar, to take further instructions on a fresh report submitted by the GMCH. The report listed reasons to conclude that the ventilators are unsafe for patient’s use, and it was decided not to test any of these machines on patients.

The Additional Solicitor General then apprised the Aurangabad Bench that the Central government would take remedial steps and ensure the ventilators would operate adequately and all defects, if any, would be removed. The matter will be heard on June 2, 2021.

On May 25, the court had also taken note of some news reports where politicians started visiting Hospitals to find out about the ventilators and some, without having the expertise, just declared that all the ventilators are in good working conditions. Some also said that the ventilators have been lying idle, so they have become dysfunctional.

The court had taken a dim view of this and said, “We express our displeasure as regards such indulgence by the people’s representatives. This is likely to cause more botheration to the medical faculty than render any assistance. Contrary statements are being issued by the politicians which we find distasteful as some politicians have visited the hospital, posing as if they have the knowledge and the expertise to inspect the ventilators and recommend correctional steps. We would appreciate it if political colour is not attached to this issue of dysfunctional ventilators