By: Express News Service | Mumbai | Published: June 10, 2020 5:50:42 am
The court posted the matter for further hearing on June 23. (File)
The Maharashtra government on Tuesday told the Bombay High Court that it is not required for the authorities to requisition privately-operated ambulances across the state at this stage to ferry patients amid the Covid-19 pandemic, since with the easing of lockdown restrictions, other modes of transports – including private vehicles, taxis or autorickshaws – can be used to transport patients to hospitals and care centres.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice S S Shinde was hearing a public interest litigation filed by BJP leader Kirit Somaiya seeking directions to the state to take immediate steps to increase the number of ambulances in Mumbai, even by compelling private ambulance providers to start such services.
The plea, filed through advocates Gaurav Mehta and Shivani Agarwal, said while the government’s ‘108 ambulance’ services provide only 93 ambulances in Mumbai, there are approximately 3,000 ambulances run by private operators – most of them are not functioning during the lockdown.
On Tuesday, Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni told the HC that directions shall be issued to the regional transport offices (RTOs) to display on their websites relevant details, including contact numbers of registered owners of ambulances, to help those in need.
“In the event of any complaint being received by the regional transport officer about a particular ambulance owner refusing to render service, appropriate punitive action would be initiated, apart from issuance of an order requisitioning such ambulance to render public service,” he added.
Kumbhakoni also said that the government would work on the charges to be borne by patients and put up the same on the RTO website.
With the court last week asking the government to consider requisitioning private ambulances, Kumbhakoni submitted that this was expensive and not possible at the moment.
Senior counsel Anil Sakhare, appearing for BMC, said: “…. (in) regard to easing of lock-down norms, there is no ban on travelling and that, at present, patients may be transported to hospitals and care centres by all available means of transport and there is no need to requisition ambulances by the state or the BMC… however, depending on the need in given circumstances, orders of requisition could be passed.”
The court posted the matter for further hearing on June 23.
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