The Madhya Pradesh High Court on Friday (30/04/2021) while considering a batch of petitions, including a Suo Moto petition, on the state’s preparedness to manage the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic directed all state governments to ensure seamless transport of medical oxygen by providing green corridors for inter-sate oxygen tankers.
The matter was heard by a bench comprising of Chief Justice Mohammad Rafiq and Justice Atul Sreedharan.
While hearing the petitions the court had inquired into several aspects of the state's covid-19 preparedness. The Amicus Curie appointed by the court, Naman Nagrath informed the court about the lack of oxygen and Remdesivir supply in the state despite previous directions issued by the court. It was submitted that more than 60 deaths have so far taken place in the State owing to lack of oxygen. It was argued that the state’s portrayal regarding the availability of oxygen was far from reality and that out of the 8 oxygen plants that have been allotted to the state under the PM CARES Fund only 5 are operational. It was submitted that each of these plants costs Rs 1 Crore for construction and ideally there should be an allocation of Rs 50 Crores so that oxygen plants can be set up at each of the 52 districts in the state to cater to the needs of all the district hospitals.
The Amicus Curie also pointed to the shortage in the supply of testing facilities, critical medicines like Remdesivir and hospital beds in the state. He further submitted that these shortages are helping a booming black market in the drugs and the private hospitals are charging exorbitant rates for treatment.
Advocate Shashank Shekhar appearing for the intervener also reiterated the concerns of the Amicus Curie that the private hospitals are not following the prescribed rate and that there is a huge gap in the availability of specialist doctors in the state. He also alleged that the state government have given instructions to the private and government labs not to conduct RT-PCR tests.
Advocate Anand Mohan Mathur appearing for Shanti Manch Samiti alleged that there is a large scale under-reporting of cases and deaths in the state.
The allegations regarding malpractice by private hospitals were denied by Advocate Shivendra Pandey, appearing for Indian Medical Association and Advocate Shreyas Pandit, appearing for M.P. Nursing Home Association.
After hearing all the parties, the court pointed to several newspaper reports about the death of patients in the state due to lack of oxygen. The court observed that:
“Death of citizens, so large in number, is heart-rending. It is a pity that people are dying in the hospitals due to lack of oxygen.”
The court further observed that:
“The right to life enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution of India would be meaningless in the present situation without the continuous availability of oxygen. Here comes the role of State as a Constitutional obligation to provide for not only the lifesaving drugs but also the oxygen.”
The court took cognizance of the non-availability of oxygen and Remdesivir as the major problem in the Covid-19 management in the state. It was observed that people are finding it difficult to get admissions in private and government hospitals.
The Advocate General informed the court of the additional liquid oxygen capacity instituted by the state to tackle the shortage. It was further submitted that there is a shortage of cryogenic tankers to transport the liquid oxygen and that the state and central governments are using multiple modes to transport the available liquid oxygen supplies.
The court took cognizance of the efforts made by the governments and suggested that the supply should be streamlined that no patient suffers from a lack of oxygen. The court also directed the state and central governments to ensure a timely and sufficient supply of Remdesivir and other essential treatments to patients.
An incident where an oxygen tanker allocated to the state was redirected by Uttar Pradesh police was taken note of by the court. On the issue, the court observed that:
“This Court impresses upon all the State Governments and through them, their Police Authorities and the Transport Authorities, to provide green corridors to the Tankers carrying Liquid Medical Oxygen involving inter-state movement, at par with ambulances, so that the oxygen can be timely delivered at the respective destinations, to save the precious human lives in this crucial period.”
The matter will be again taken up for hearing on 6th May 2021.