Faulty Ventilators Provided to Maharashtra Will Have To Be Replaced: Bombay HC

The bench said that any loss of life caused by these ventilators would be the Centre's responsibility.

New Delhi: If any ventilators supplied by the Centre to Maharashtra are found to be defective, then these devices should be replaced, the Bombay high court said on Wednesday, asserting it will not allow “experiments” to be carried out on COVID-19 patients as majorly repaired ventilators may lead to loss of life. The bench said that any loss of life caused by these ventilators would be the Centre’s responsibility.

Justices R.V. Ghuge and B.U. Debadwar of the Aurangabad bench of the high court was hearing a bunch of petitions on issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The court was last week informed by prosecutor D.R. Kale, appearing for the state government, that more than 100 ventilators supplied by the Centre to hospitals in the Marathwada region were found to be defective and hence, were not being used.

The Centre had refuted the claim and said the hospital staff are not adequately trained to use ventilators.

On Wednesday, Kale told the bench that medical experts in the Government Medical College and Hospital had examined and operated ventilators provided by the Centre. As per the report submitted by Kale, these ventilators broke down frequently despite repairs and there were several other defects in them.

Appearing for the Centre, additional solicitor general Anil Singh said two senior doctors from Delhi’s Ram Manohar Lohia and Safdarjung hospitals will visit the government hospital in Aurangabad on Thursday to inspect the devices.

Singh told the court that if the ventilators are found to be dysfunctional, then the manufacturer would be held liable.

He further said there will be no risk of casualty, as these ventilators have not been put to use by the hospitals in the Marathwada region.

The bench, while accepting Singh’s statement, said, “We make it clear that we expect the Union of India to be firm with the manufacturer in the event of supply of defective ventilators.”

The court said if required, it would direct for the defective ventilators to be returned.

“In such a situation, it would be the responsibility of the Union of India to ensure that the defective ventilators are replaced with new functional ventilators,” the court said.

It noted that any defects in the manufacturing of the ventilators call for replacement.

“We would not permit experimentation of ventilators, which have undergone major repairs, in treating the patients, since this would be causing a risk/health hazard and unfortunately, the use of such ventilators may cause loss of life, which should be averted,” the court said.

The bench directed for a report to be submitted before it on the visit of the two doctors from Delhi and posted the matter for further hearing on June 7.

In a previous hearing, the high court was severely critical of the Centre for its affidavit which defended “defective ventilator manufacturer” Jyoti CNC and claiming that the doctors and paramedics are not properly trained to handle the ventilators.

It said undersecretary G.K. Pillai (Ministry of Health and Family Welfare), who filed the affidavit, should have avoided a “blame game” and shown sensitivity towards “patients.”

“We will also appreciate if the MOHFW refrains from questioning the reports of medical experts and respect such reports in the larger interest of society, rectifying the said machines.”

“We are unable to accept the contentions of the ASGI [additional solicitor general] that the ventilators are in perfect operating conditions, and it is the hospitals who do not have trained personnel to operate them properly. The affidavit before us has a semblance of virtually defending the manufacturer and declaring the ventilators are in immaculate condition,” the court said.

On Wednesday, ASG Anil Singh began his submissions by apologising for any “misunderstanding” created at the last hearing, according to LiveLaw. “We don’t want to blame anyone or fight on this issue; ultimately, we are all we are working together and want to resolve the issue. I assure your lordships, if the ventilators are not in a working condition, or if there is any defect in the ventilator, we will look into it.” Singh said.