GOVT ASSURES We are taking steps. Do not issue a notice. We will take a call on the petition: SG Mehta


New Delhi:

The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the government to respond to a Nagpur-based doctor’s plea for a court direction to the government to urgently step up and issue WHO-approved personal protection equipment (PPE) to the medical fraternity throughout the country to protect themselves from being infected by Covid-19.

Dr Jerryl Banait had, through advocate Sunil Fernandes, filed a petition seeking such kits for all staff, including support staff, nurses and other health workers, engaged in the fight against the virus.

The government, through Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, said it was taking all steps to ensure this. “We had a similar matter yesterday (Tuesday). We are taking steps. Do not issue a notice. We will take a call on the petition,” Mehta told a bench led by Justice Chandrachud who was sitting alongside Justice MR Shah.

The bench asked him to give a formal reply to the petition by next week. The government has, since the coronavirus threat, ramped up production of PPEs in the country but doctors fear that it will be inadequate when the social transmission of the disease peaks.

In an affidavit filed by the home ministry on Tuesday through home secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla, the government had claimed that it had created 118 testing labs from a sole lab at Pune. These can carry out 15,000 tests per day. It had also claimed that it had identified 47 private labs which have 20,000 collection centres throughout the country. It had also set up 19 dedicated isolation units with a bed capacity of 1.35 lakh.

In another petition, filed by the founder of Justice for Rights Foundation Sayam Singh Rajput, another bench of the court, led by Justice L Nageswara Rao, issued notices to the government seeking its views on a plea which sought free distribution of masks and sanitisers. Sanitisers and masks are beings sold at very high prices, the petition alleged, and insisted they be supplied free to the weaker sections and at reasonable prices to others. These petitions will now be heard when the court reconvenes. The other judge on the bench was Justice S Abdul Nazeer.