MUMBAI: Observing that prima facie there appears to be a need to look into the tendering process for Covid-related items, the Bombay high court on Friday directed BMC to file its reply within two weeks to a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by BJP MLA Ashish Shelar that has sought streamlining of pricing of medicines, disinfectants and sanitisers to prevent profiteering by a few.
The PIL said hospital-acquired infection (HAI) should be checked and disinfectant procurement by public hospitals should be of the highest standards to ensure the health and safety of common people, especially the economically disadvantaged sections of society. BMC has failed to evolve a proper framework for procurement of medicines and disinfectants through the tendering process in conformity with applicable norms for civic hospitals, submitted Shelar’s counsel Deepa Chavan before a bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish Kulkarni.
Senior counsel Milind Sathe for BMC questioned the bona fides of the PIL. Chavan refuted his submissions and said the petitioner is a member of legislative assembly (MLA) and was concerned about the safety of people and high standards of public health.
Sathe said the tendering process was a technical matter decided by experts from civic hospitals and not an issue that can go into a PIL.
The PIL said, “A skewed public procurement process to favour certain manufacturers by diluting the standards of eligibility are germane to seek interference of the HC.”
Shelar, it added, had already provided various suggestions to bring in greater transparency and effective approach by the BMC and better regulations.
It sought to highlight “vague and incomplete specifications” in the tender form that could lead to “procurement of substandard material’’ which in turn could adversely impact lives of common men and women. The tender form fell short, said the PIL, of the updated international standards formulated by the Directorate of Medical Education and Research and the standard operating procedure (SOPs) through state-level infection control committee for antiseptics and disinfectants. The PIL essentially faults only the civic body for its “lacunae’’ and “ambiguities leaving space for favouritism’’ in the tendering process.
The PIL sought orders to ensure adherence to specifications and standard operating procedures evolved by the Infection Control Committee of DMER at the state level, in October 2019 and also to incorporate processes evolved by Haffkine Biopharmaceuticals while procuring drugs and disinfectants.
The HC will next hear the matter after three weeks.