The Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court on Friday slammed the Centre for its "insensitive" approach over the issue of supply of more than 100 dysfunctional ventilators to hospitals in Marathwada region of Maharashtra.
A vacation bench of Justices RV Ghuge and BU Debadwar noted that the Union government was more concerned about the company that manufactured and supplied the dysfunctional ventilators than the lives of citizens.
The bench was hearing petitions pertaining to COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier this week, deans of the government-run hospitals in Aurangabad and a few private hospitals had told the court that 113 ventilators, out of 150 devices supplied from the Centre under the PM CARES Fund, were defective.
The court had then sought to know from the Union government what action it proposes to take on the issue.
On Friday, assistant Solicitor General Ajay Talhar submitted an affidavit filed by G K Pillai, under secretary of the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, which stated that the ventilators were not supplied under the PM CARES Fund.
The affidavit further said the Gujarat-based company, from which the ventilators were procured, had said that there was nothing wrong with the devices and ventilators it had supplied to other states were functioning properly.
"The hospital staff must have been inadequately trained and must have not been able to use the ventilators," Talhar told the court.
The bench, however, said it was surprised as to how the Centre had accepted the company's claim at face value and has not said in the affidavit that it would look into the issue.
"Did you (government) take any steps to verify what the medical experts of hospitals here are saying? What remedial steps have you taken? What are you more concerned about? The company or the lives of citizens of this country?
The tenor of the affidavit does not indicate that you are concerned about the lives of patients," Justice Ghuge said.
The court further said the Centre's attitude was very "negative" and it seems that the government is thinking of this as a "trifle" issue.
"You (government) may think of it as a trifle issue, but we will not blink our eyes to this," the court said, adding that it was unable to appreciate the argument that the hospital staffers in Aurangabad were not trained properly on operating the machines.
The bench noted that the affidavit filed by the Centre had a semblance of it defending the company.
"We find such statements to be demonstrating insensitivity on the part of the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare," the court said.
It added that the Union government should not have indulged in this blame game and should have instead expressed its whole-hearted support to ensure that the ventilators supplied are put to optimum use.
Following this, Talhar told the court that the Centre would now take all remedial measures to address the issue. The court accepted the statement and posted the matter for further hearing on June 2.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)