MUMBAI: Bombay high court on Friday frowned at the state government for saying there is no requirement for Covid-19 testing facilities in all districts of Maharashtra.
A bench of chief justice Dipankar Datta and justice KK Tated were hearing a PIL, via videoconference, which was initially filed for Ratnagiri but whose scope it had enlarged to cover all districts of Maharashtra. At the previous hearing on May 26, the bench was shocked that there were testing centres in a few districts. The state was then directed to inform whether testing facilities are available in all districts.
The judges were upset to read the state government's stand in an unsigned note. "It is a bit strange for us that no testing facilities are required in districts, "the CJ reportedly remarked. The judges also questioned what kind of note was submitted which did not bear any signature. They asked assistant government pleader Jyoti Chavan to call advocate general Ashutosh Kumbhakoni immediately. "How can a statement be made that there is no need for testing facilities for Covid-19 in all districts?," the CJ reported asked the AG.
Kumbhakoni told the court that he would call the highest officer to the court at 4.30pm to meet him. The advocate assured the court that he would personally look into the matter. As far as possible, I will try and sort this out, he said. The judges said all health matters related to coronavirus would be combined and listed together. They asked the AG to appear and posted the hearing till June 2.
Fisherman Khalil Wasta, who had filed the plea, said, Ratnagiri district with 16 lakh population has 6 hospitals out of which 2 are reserved for Covid treatment. Swabs are sent to the government medical college at Miraj in Sangli district some 178km away. The hospital also tests swabs from nearby districts and therefore cannot give reports on time. Wasta’s petition said the number positive cases went up after some 44,000 migrants were issued entry passes and nearly 30,000 entered without passes. His advocate Rakesh Bhatkar informed that Ratnagiri, Sindhudurg and Raigad districts do not have a single laboratory for conducting Covid tests.