Mumbai, June 22: The Bombay High Court on Tuesday directed the central government to file an affidavit indicating the steps taken by Western and Central Railway to convert coaches into isolation or quarantine centres and why ICU facilities in coaches are not considered necessary.

A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice M S Karnik heard through videoconference a PIL by one Naresh Kapoor filed through advocates Prerak Choudhary and Jigar Kamdar raising various concerns on Covid-19 treatment, The Indian Express reported.

The PIL sought that all hospitals, nursing homes and dispensaries, which are presently closed either due to departmental orders or judicial orders, should be re-opened to meet the needs of patients who have tested positive for Covid as well as patients suffering from other ailments.

The petitioner also said that private medical practitioners ought to be permitted to prescribe Covid test. Moreover, the plea sought direction to the central government that railway coaches should be converted into makeshift ICUs for effective treatment of patients. The petitioner further sought that availability of bed status for patients infected with Covid-19 and other ailments be put up by the authorities.

Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni for the state placed before the court the circular issued by the state in view of the advisory of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) issued on June 14 on the use of rapid antigen detection test for Covid-19. The lawyer for the petitioner agreed that several concerns expressed by his client were addressed by the circular.

On the issue of private practitioners being permitted to prescribe Covid tests, Kumbhakoni said that the circular issued by the BMC based on ICMR guidelines is in force and it stipulated certain conditions. The HC asked the authorities to share the circular with the petitioner and submit it before the court.

After hearing submissions, the bench said that as far as the prayer for reopening of closed hospitals, nursing homes and dispensaries was concerned, it found no reason to grant the same as it had noted in its earlier judgment on Covid-19 relief that facilities given by the state government and BMC are not insufficient and order to reopen closed hospitals cannot be granted.

“Further, granting the prayer would amount to tinkering with administrative or judicial orders. Such a course is plainly impermissible. That apart, in our view, instead of the judiciary entering into the domain of the executive, opening up more facilities should be left to the latter’s judgment considering the need, if at all,” it said.

The court also stated that concerns regarding bed status were catered to in its earlier judgment and it need not be addressed separately again. On the issue of railway coaches, the bench said, “The Union of India shall file an affidavit indicating therein the steps taken by the Western Railway as well as the Central Railway to convert coaches into isolation/ quarantine centres, and why ICU facilities in coaches is not considered necessary.”

Asking the Centre to file affidavit within seven days, the bench posted further hearing on July 2.

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