The Aurangabad bench of Bombay High Court on Friday pulled up the Centre for filing an affidavit defending the manufacturers of faulty ventilators purchased through the PM CARES fund, Bar and Bench reported.
A bench of Justices RV Ghuge and BU Debadwar was hearing a suo motu petition on handling of coronavirus pandemic in Maharashtra.
On May 25, had directed the central government to respond after Chief Public Prosecutor DR Kale, representing the Maharashtra government, submitted that out of 150 ventilators supplied by the Centre, 113 were found to be defective. The remaining 37 were not unboxed because of the faults found in majority of the equipment. All the ventilators were supplied through the PM CARES fund, according to the submission in the court.
However, in an affidavit submitted in response to the matter, the Centre claimed that the ventilators were supplied through the “Make in India” initiative, and not PM CARES. The government also submitted that no written complaint was recorded to suggest that the ventilators were faulty and instead said that medical officers at the hospital were not trained to handle the equipment, Live Law reported.
The court took exception to the affidavit, noting it sought to defend the manufacturer of the ventilators.
“The affidavit before us has a semblance of the affiant [author of affidavit] virtually defending the manufacturer and declaring that the ventilators are in operating condition,” the court said. “The ASGI [assistant solicitor general] has addressed us as if he is holding the brief for the manufacturer.”
The court also responded to the submission that the ventilators were not supplied under PM CARES, saying the government should not have “entered into a blame game” and shown sensitivity towards patients.
“We will also appreciate if the MOHFW [Union health ministry] refrains from questioning the reports of medical experts and respect such reports in the larger interest of society, rectifying the said machines,” the court said.
After the court’s rebuke, Assistant Solicitor General Ajay Talhar said he was withdrawing the statements, seeking disposal of the petition, as the affidavit was filed in haste. “Don’t give us lame excuses,” the court retorted.
The bench then asked Talhar to take further instructions on a fresh report submitted by the hospital, listing reasons to conclude that the ventilators were unsafe to be used any further on patients. In response, Talhar said that the central government would take remedial steps, ensure that the ventilators work properly and rectify the defects.
The matter will be heard again on June 2.
This is not the first instance where ventilators supplied under the PM CARES fund has been found to be faulty. In April, the Rajasthan government had written to the Centre after receiving such complaints from multiple districts. The Punjab government has also made similar allegations, even as, the Centre has denied them.