'Corporations cannot act on their own': Gujarat HC directs Ahmedabad civic body to conform to state COVID-19 policy
The direction came after the AMC informed that it has withdrawn the rule that only those patients who are brought by '108' ambulances be admitted to municipal hospitals or in the AMC's quota in private hospitals for COVID-19 patients
Taking exception to a few decisions of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC), the Gujarat High Court on Tuesday directed the state government to ensure that civic bodies act in accordance with its policies for containing the COVID-19 pandemic.
The direction came after the Ahmedabad civic body informed that it has withdrawn the rule that only those patients who are brought by '108' ambulances be admitted to municipal hospitals or in the AMC's quota in private hospitals for COVID-19 treatment.
"The state has to take care that none of the (municipal) corporations do their 'manmani' (behave arbitrarily). Corporations have to act in accordance with the policy of the state and in conformation with the state, and they cannot act on their own," the court said, hearing a suo motu (on its own) PIL about the Gujarat government's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The court had last week directed that hospitals must attend to patients irrespective of whether they arrive in private vehicles or '108' ambulances.
The Ahmedabad civic body on Tuesday said its order has been withdrawn, but also maintained that the policy was neither "mischievous" nor "overriding the state".
Advocate General Kamal Trivedi told the court that this 'only 108 ambulances' policy was sound till 15 April, but not thereafter when the number of cases started rising fast.
The court asked if he accepted that the state has been failing to supervise the situation and the AMC was behaving like an "undisciplined child".
AMC's lawyer Mihir Joshi said the civic body was working "in tandem" with the state government and it "still believes that a more efficient system is the centralised one" while it abides by the court's orders.
"It is not with a view to go against the state, it was felt necessary in the interest of the common man, and for an efficient administration process," he said.
In its earlier order, the court had said the '108' ambulance facility is a state government scheme, and the corporation is bound to follow whatever guidelines or policy the state government formulates about its use.
The court also refused to accept the AMC's request to allow Ahmedabad residents to return to the city from other states without an RT-PCR test so far as the person is "leaving and returning within 72 hours."
The court said it was not inclined to make an exception for the city residents.
The HC had in a past order said the AMC's press note exempting residents of the city from obtaining RT-PCR negative report before returning from other states was contrary to the state's notification that required anybody entering Gujarat to carry such a report.
The court also highlighted inconsistency in the government's data on the number of RT-PCR test machines available in various districts and the claims made in subsequent affidavits. AG Trivedi said 72 RT-PCR machines are operating in the state at present.
When the court said it failed to understand how, despite an increase in the number of RT-PCR machines, the number of test results went down from 1,89,902 to 1,37,714 between 23 April to 2 May, the AG said the test figures are "dynamic", and nobody who seeks a test has been turned away.
"People are being encouraged to take the test. If the number has gone down, it is because the test figure is dynamic," he said.
Government Pleader Manisha Lavkumar Shah, however, conceded that there were "some discrepancies with regard to the number (of tests)".
The court directed the state government to submit the exact number, saying "We want clean, hard facts", as per Bar&Bench.
Court: So what you have furnished before us on 19th April is absolutely incorrect
AG Trivedi: There appears to be..
Court: Our effort has never been to give some information make us happy.. we want clean, hard facts. Whatever is there with you, you inform us
— Bar & Bench (@barandbench) May 4, 2021
The Advocate General also informed that 32 PSA plants would be set up at government hospitals for the supply of medical oxygen.
The delivery time for the import of raw material for these plants from Germany and France was two-three months, he said.
The court also directed the government to give information about the availability of COVID-19 vaccine doses and set up a mechanism for real-time allocation of beds for COVID-19 patients across all hospitals in municipal areas.
The court ordered the AMC to provide real-time updates on the availability of different category of beds in different COVID-19 hospitals in the city, by setting up an online dashboard.
According to a LiveLaw report the bench observed, "We are very pained at the State's and corporation's approach. Orders passed by this court are being completely ignored. For the last three orders, we have been mentioning this issue of real-time updates. But till today, nothing has been done by the state or the corporation."
Advocate Mihir Joshi, appearing on behalf of the AMC, informed the Bench that Ahmedabad Hospitals and Nursing Homes Association's website updates data on availability on beds twice a day. "This website has been linked with AMC's official website," he said.
Discontented with the submission, the bench, "This is only twice a day, not on a real-time basis. Whereas other corporations that are much smaller than AMC have real-time data available on their websites. Why is Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation lacking behind? We have been wanting a dashboard with complete information of all the hospitals on a real-time basis."
It also sought a chart on the distribution of remdesivir injections in the state over the last 15 days, adjourning the hearing till 11 May.
With inputs from PTI
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