HC pulls up Maha govt on Remdesivir procurement, allocation

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Nagpur, Apr 21 (PTI) The Bombay High Court came down heavily on the Maharashtra government on Wednesday for its extremely callous behaviour towards the issue of procuring and allocating Remdesivir injections for COVID-19 patients and said the authorities are shirking their responsibilities.

The critical remarks by the Nagpur bench of the HC came in the backdrop of a nationwide scramble for the anti- viral drug being widely used to treat COVID-19 patients.

A division bench of Justices S B Shukre and S M Modak was irked that its April 19 order, directing the state government to supply 10,000 Remdesivir vials to Nagpur, badly affected by COVID-19, on that very day, was not complied with completely.

In strong remarks, the court noted that it was ashamed to be a part of this 'nasty and evil society' and was unable to do anything for the coronavirus patients of Maharashtra.

The bench was hearing a bunch of petitions on the issue of the pandemic, lack of medical facilities in hospitals and the hurdles being faced by affected people.

The bench noted that the affidavits filed by the Joint Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, Nagpur, and the Additional Collector have made contradictory statements on why the order could not be complied with.

We find that these officers have now started to shirk their responsibilities in giving certain relief to COVID-19 patients and in a way, they are also on the path to violate their fundamental duties, the court observed.

It added that at this stage it was refraining from passing any adverse order and giving the authorities concerned an opportunity to correct themselves.

The Joint Commissioner (FDA), in his affidavit, said the Maharashtra government has no authority to control, distribute and allocate Remdesivir and that the process is handled by Mumbai-based Haffkine Bio Pharmaceutical Corporation Ltd.

He told the court that pharma companies send vials to their depots in Maharashtra from where they are dispatched to hospitals. The affidavit said at present there is a shortage of Remdesivir in Maharashtra, the worst COVID-19-hit state.

The bench then pointed out that on the last hearing it was told that a state-level committee has been appointed to allocate Remdesivir injections to hospitals across districts in Maharashtra.

Whose responsibility is allocation? This is highly objectionable. This shows extreme callousness and now the government is trying to shirk its responsibility.

'Is it not the state governments job to find a solution at its level, Justice Shukre said.

The bench further noted that the authorities are not providing any solace or relief to coronavirus patients and are refusing to even comply with court orders.

Are you not ashamed of yourselves? We are ashamed to be a part of this nasty and evil society where we are not able to do anything for the unfortunate patients of Maharashtra, Justice Shukre said.

What nonsense is going on here...you (government) wont do anything on your own and when we are trying to provide a solution you do not follow that too. You cannot walk away from your responsibilities, the court said.

The bench directed the court-appointed Nagpur Covid- 19 Committee, headed by the Nagpur Divisional Commissioner with the Nagpur Collector as its Member Secretary, to hold an emergency meeting on Wednesday and make efforts to procure Remdesivir vials on an urgent basis for Nagpur.

The bench also took note of a recent incident of Mumbai where police unearthed an alleged malpractice where the director of a Gujarat-based company was trying to sell 60,000 vials of Remdesivir in the black market.

It said the Nagpur police should carry out periodical checks, surprise raids and inspections to stop such malpractices.

Nagpur Collector Ravindra Thakare told the court that around 4,000 vials of Remdesivir are expected to be received on Wednesday. PTI CLS SP RSY RSY