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No HC relief in industrialist’s plea seeking Covid tests for everyone

June 20, 2020 05:48 AM


No HC relief in industrialist’s plea seeking Covid tests for everyone


Observing that there has to be a rational use of testing kits, the Bombay high court on Friday declined an interim plea by industrialist Narendra Murkumbi of Shree Renuka Sugars to allow the “public at large” to get tested for Covid-19 without a doctor’s prescription. The state, the Centre and the BMC have denounced the sugar baron’s plea, saying it is pro-rich.

A bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice K K Tated, via video-conference, refused to stay the condition in the Indian Council for Medical Research’s March 21 guidelines, whereby testing is to be done on a doctor’s prescription and only for those persons who are symptomatic and have come in contact with a positive patient. “We are of the considered prima facie opinion that there has to be a rational use of testing kits and the present situation is not warranting grant of interim relief,” the judges said in their order. Murkumbi filed the PIL to quash and set aside the ICMR condition.

Advocate general Ashutosh Kumbhakoni termed the PIL “a luxury petition filed by a rich man for rich men... This cannot be allowed.”

The AG said the state and ICMR have laid down the guidelines and the poor are required to be tested, taking into account their exposure.

He said resources are limited and excess testing capacity is not available.

Senior advocate Vikram Nankani for Murkumbi countered that his client is a public-spirited person and the petition is “not a luxury but a necessity” as employees need to be tested even if they have no symptoms, for the safety of everyone and their families.

The judges said the petitioner must refer to ICMR’s June 14 circular regarding new testing methods.

The AG said even a person who does the test today can get infected tomorrow and “so this testing of all is illusory”. Additional solicitor general Anil Singh said the country has limited resources, including laboratories, technicians and manpower.

“It’s like, ‘if I have money, I will keep testing every fifteen days’. This will affect the poor who actually require testing,” he added.

Senior advocate Anil Sakhare for the BMC also said the resources for testing are limited and “deserving persons should not be left out because some people are able to pay”. He said in future, after the pandemic is overcome, there won’t be restrictions.

Nankani submitted even though there are many laboratories, only 4,000 tests are being conducted daily in Mumbai. The judges referred to a PIL seeking more testing facilities, in which the state informed there are 80 government and private labs in Maharashtra

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