In a significant ruling the Bombay High Court has said that it will be the responsibility of the Centre in case any faulty ventilators supplied by a Gujarat-based company through the PMCares Fund, cause deaths of Covid-19 patients.
In its verdict on Wednesday, a Division Bench comprising Justice Ravindra Ghuge and Justice B.U. Debadwar said that they would “not permit experimentation of ventilators which have undergone major repairs in treating the patients, since this would be causing a risk/health hazard to the patients, and unfortunately, the use of such ventilators may cause loss of life, which must be averted”.
After a submission by the Additional Solicitor-General of India Anil Singh, that a team expert doctors from New Delhi – one each from Ram Manohar Lohiya Hospital and Safdarjung Hospital – would visit the Government Medical College & Hospital, Aurangabad (GMCH) today to inspect the defective ventilators, the court has posted the matter for further hearing on June 7.
The matter pertains to 150 ventilators provided to the GMCH in April under the PM Care Fund which were supplied by Rajkot-based Jyoti CNC, of which around 133 were found to be defective or malfunctional. (IANS – May18).
A GMCH committee had submitted a report on the ventilators which suffered continuous breakdowns even after repairs, and hence the machines were not being used as a precautionary measure with the Maharashtra Congress Spokesperson Sachin Sawant raising the issue in a big way.
In their suo moto criminal PIL filed at the Aurangabad Bench, the judges said: “If the ventilators are found to be dysfunctional even after inspection/repairs, the manufacturer would be held liable and the Union of India shall press for replacement of such defective ventilators keeping in view that there exists a one-year manufacturer’s warranty in relation to each of such ventilator.”
To this, Singh hastily added that no casualty would occur since these ventilators will not be made operational in the treatment of the patients until the team of the doctors visiting GMCH Aurangabad (today) and representatives of the manufacturer ensure that the ventilators are upto desirable operational standards.
Chief Public Prosecutor D. R. Kale informed the court that since it would be extremely risky to use these defective ventilators, the GMCH Aurangabad and Ambejogai (Beed) would not use them till they are fully convinced that the machines are perfectly functional and could deliver the desired results while treating the patients.
CPP Kale made it clear that the GMCH does not “want to be blamed for a casualty, if it occurs on account of use of such ventilators” and since the GMCH does not have a service center in Aurangabad or Beed, the manufacturer (Jyoti CNC, Rajkot) should take them to its own repairing centers.
Justice Ghuge and Justice Debadwar said they expected the Centre to be firm with the manufacturer for supplying such defective ventilators, and if necessary, the court would order their return.
“In such a situation, it would be the responsibility of the Union of India to ensure that the defective ventilators are replaced with new functional ventilators. Manufacturing defects call for replacement under the warranty scheme,” the court said.
After the Congress and Sawant raised the issue in April, on May 15, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had ordered an audit of the installation and operation of all ventilators supplied around the country through the PMCF.
Of the 150 ventilators supplied by Jyoti CNC, Rajkot, to Maharashtra under the PMCF, 58 were installed but all are lying unused despite repairs, the company did install another 37, while the balance 55 were distributed to hospitals in Beed, Parbhani, Osmanabad and Hingoli, as er the GMCH Report last month.