A petition has been filed in the Bombay High Court by petitioner Crystal Hospital Ltd and another through Advocates Rohini M. Amin and Maria Nedumpara to make available the entire facility for Covid treatment in the state.
In this petition, the petitioner is a Limited company titled ‘Crystal Hospital Ltd.’, situated at Dahisar, Mumbai. The 2nd petitioner is the Director of the company. The Hospital has been requisitioned by the respondents Municipal Corporation, Mumbai, under Section 2 of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 and the rules made thereunder for treatment of the Covid patients, namely, as ‘Covid Hospital’.
The respondents has been supplying oxygen to the hospital for the last more than 7 years. The other Respondents are the Government of India, the State of Maharashtra, Municipal Corporation and other statutory authorities. The petition under Article 226 is instituted since the Respondents has denied the supply of oxygen to the Petitioner Hospital and instead has been selling the oxygen in the black market and profiteering at a time when the covid patients under treatment face the risk of death due to the shortage of oxygen.
The petitioner said that the hospital bought 20 jumbo oxygen from the respondents in the year 2020 by paying the entire price of Rs. 2,12,400/- (Rs. Two lakh Twelve thousand and four hundred) in addition to that, the Petitioner Hospital has taken 20 jumbo cylinders on rent at Rs. 40 per day, it also paid an amount of Rs. 1 lakh as deposit. There has been a sudden surge in the number of patients and the number of patients who need oxygen in the first week of April. Anticipating further surge in the number of covid patients, on April 08, 2021, the hospital gave 26 empty jumbo cylinders and 6 small M1320 cylinders to Respondents for refiling of the cylinders.
The hospital required a minimum of 40 jumbo cylinders, however, till of April 12, 2021, the Respondents did not supply any cylinders at all. The Petitioners accordingly met the Respondents personally and requested them to supply the oxygen cylinders as demanded as the failure on their part has left the Petitioners with no option than to procure the cylinders in the black market. The Respondents told the Petitioner that they have enough stock of oxygen, namely, almost 40 metric tons and that they can supply, provided the Petitioners pay them black market price of the cylinder.
Since the respondents refused to supply oxygen except at the illegal black-market rate, the Covid patients who required oxygen had to be transferred to other hospitals to save their lives. What the respondents are entitled to charge officially is Rs. 350/- per cylinder, however black-market rate is 10-12 times thereof, namely, Rs. 3500 to 4500 actual price per cylinder is Rs. 350/-.
The respondents kept with them the 26 jumbo oxygen cylinders and the 6 small oxygen cylinders which were given to them for refiling on April 8, 2021, without refiling and supplying to the Petitioners demanding price at the black-market rates, endangering the life of covid patients. They did not supply because they faced any difficulty, they admitted during the meetings the Petitioners had with them that they have large quantities, but they insisted that the black-market price of the official price, why should they incur financial loss.
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The petitioner hospital is a Covid hospital requisitioned by the authorities where the poor are treated and they are unable to pay for oxygen at the black -market rates because they authorities will only pay them at the official rates. The Respondents were completely blinded by the considerations of making enormous profits at the cost of the lives of Covid patients and were not amenable to reason or any amount of persuasion.
Left with no other choice, the petitioners lodged a complaint dated April 28, 2021 with the Respondents, Senior Inspector of Police, Dahsir Police station, requesting the police to ensure that the Respondents to supply the oxygen they are dutybound to supply at the official rate, as also to take appropriate action under the law including lodging an FIR for the various offences under the Epidemic Diseases Act and the Indian Penal Code.
The petitioner also preferred a representation to the Chief Justice, bringing to his lordships notice the black marketing of oxygen cylinders, requesting him to take appropriate action. A copy of the representation dated April 26, 2021.
Since the complaint to the Police and the Municipal authorities failed to invoke the requisite remedial action on a war footing, the Petitioners preferred a representation dated May 1, 2021 to Respondents Additional Commission of Police.
The representations to the various authorities, unfortunately fell only on deaf ears at a time when the state continues to face an extreme emergency where death stares at a large number of covid patients are struggling to breath and require immediate supply of oxygen. It is not possible to shift such critical covid patients to another hospital for all other hospitals also face the same situation as the Petitioners. There are no beds available, moreover, transferring a critical patient to another patient comes with its own complications and is not always possible.
The petitioner Hospital has 63 number of covid patients who need oxygen. The oxygen reserve will be exhausted in a few hours. Therefore, to save the lives of those who are in dire need of treatment who will die if oxygen supply is not restored forthwith, the Petitioners are left with no other efficacious remedy than to invoke the jurisdiction of this Court under Article 226 read with Article 215 of the Constitution of India, the petition said.
The petitioner is unable to come to the High Court for affirmation, or even go to a notary for affirmation because his primary concern is to run his hospital, do everything humanly possible to save lives of covid patients who come to the hospital for treatment.
The petition stated that the Petitioners are made to understand that out of the 240 metric tons of Mumbai requires each day. The oxygen tanks at the major hospitals account for 180 metric tons, the remaining is supplied through jumbo and dura cylinders, refiled by Phoenix Gases respondents and Satramadas gases Respondents.
The petitioners are made to understand that the respondents, Indo Gas is practically a sister concern of Phoenix Gases. Indo Gas supplies 40 metric tons per day, of which the major part is sold in the black market at ten times the official rates. The kind of illegal money they could make at a time like this is beyond one’s imagination.
The petitioner is a Covid hospital with 90 beds of which 13 has hi-tech ICU facilities. The hospitals which are requisitioned by the BMC for Covid patients can retain 20% of the beds for non-Covid patients.
The petitioner hospital, committed to social cause and the welfare of the commonwealth, wanted to make available the entire facility for covid treatment. In all humility, the Petitioner Hospital would submit that it has done a yeoman service in the covid treatment.
However, since from the April 12, 2021, oxygen was denied by Indo Gas, respondents the Petitioner- Hospital had to shift the patients to other hospitals. At a time when there is great shortage of beds and ICU facilities for the treatment of covid patients, the Petitioner Hospital, one well equipped with all modern, hybrid facilities for covid treatment, is forced to remain handicapped, practically closed.
The petitioner hospital was willing even to pay 5 times the approved the rates for oxygen, however, Indo Gas was so heartless and unscrupulous, it demanded a minimum of 10 times the official rate. The Petitioner, though complained to the Police, BMC and even to the Chief Justice, there came no help. The hoarding and black marketing of oxygen and the artificial shortage created has given rise to a health crisis of monumental ramifications. It is not the Petitioner’s Hospital alone that is affected. This is a problem faced by almost all hospitals in Maharashtra, the petition reads.
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The Court therefore, is entitled to, nay, dutybound to take judicial notice of this great man-made health crisis, which is entirely duty to the illegal and criminal designs of a few diabolic men who want to profit out of the misery of fellow men, the Petitioner claimed.