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Can’t set Covid-19 testing facilities in each district, Bombay HC expresses displeasure

The HC bench, comprising chief justice Dipankar Datta and Justice KK Tated, expressed their displeasure about the state government’s “irresponsible statement” to advocate-general Ashutosh Kumbhakoni.

Updated: May 29, 2020 16:15 IST

By K A Y Dodhiya, Hindustan Times Mumbai

Migrant workers and their family arrives at Bandra Terminus as a special train to Howrah organised by Maharashtra government during nationwide lockdown, imposed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic in Mumbai, India. (Satyabrata Tripathy/HT Photo)

Maharashtra government authorities on Friday expressed its inability to a two-member division bench Bombay high court (HC) about setting up a full-fledged coronavirus disease (Covid-19) testing facility in all 36 districts in the state, but maintained that they are complying with the Indian Council of Medical Research’s (ICMR) guidelines that stipulate operating a laboratory within a radius of 250 kilometres.

The HC bench, comprising chief justice Dipankar Datta and Justice KK Tated, expressed their displeasure about the state government’s “irresponsible statement” to advocate-general Ashutosh Kumbhakoni.

Kumbhakoni admitted that the state government was at fault and a Covid-19 testing facility must be set up in each district.

The court told the advocate-general that the state government’s approach was unacceptable, and asked an official to redress the grievance by next week.



The court made the observation following a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by a fisherman, Khalil Ahmad Hasanmiya Wasta (58), from Maharashtra’s Ratnagiri district on May 22.

Wasta had complained that the district has reported a spike in coronavirus disease (Covid-19) positive cases after the government lifted inter-state travel restrictions.

The plea said that around 600,000 people have returned to the Konkan region, which includes Ratnagiri, Raigad and Sindhudurg districts, from Covid-19 hotspots such as Mumbai and Pune after the government had allowed intra-state travelling.

He cited that Ratnagiri district had reported seven Covid-19 positive cases, including two deaths, till April.

However, 108 Covid-19 positive cases have been recorded since inter-state travel has been allowed in May amid the easing of lockdown restrictions, the plea said.

He also demanded that a facility to conduct Covid-19 tests be set up in Ratnagiri district, as the nearest centre is located in Sangli and Miraj, which are 237 kilometres away, leading to a delay in the availability of results.

In its response, the state government told the court that a testing laboratory at Ratnagiri Civil Hospital would become functional within eight days, as per an official order issued on May 25.

However, the state government authorities said that new testing facilities could not be set up overnight in each district owing to several practical constraints such as lack of availability of technical infrastructure.

Besides, the ICMR norms stipulate that a testing centre is needed in only those areas, which are reporting over 100 suspect Covid-19 cases a day, the authorities said.

Though the authorities argued that each district doesn’t need a dedicated Covid-19 testing facility, the court has rejected their contention.

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