Bombay high court (File Photo)
MUMBAI: The Bombay high court on Tuesday directed Abhinav Bharat Congress, an unregistered “think tank” and its founder Pankaj Phadnis, former officer on special duty at the Wadia hospitals to deposit Rs 1 crore with the court by next Thursday to show his bona fides, before hearing on merits its PIL to take over the two charitable hospitals for Covid and non-Covid treatment.
The HC bench of chief justice Dipankar Datta and justice K K Tated was hearing the PIL on preliminary issue of its maintainability as raised by the hospitals. Earlier, the HC had sought affidavits from state government, civic body, Medical Council of India and Bai Jerbai Wadia Hospital for Children and Nowrosjee Wadia Maternity Hospital, in the PIL.
The HC, in its order, said that prima facie there was a reason to believe that the PIL petition may not have been filed in public interest and that the bona fide of the second petitioner are suspect.
If the amount is deposited it will hear the PIL on merits, said the HC.
The PIL essentially wants orders from court for both hospitals, which it said are run in a public-private arrangement with state and BMC contributing substantially to their expenses, to be taken over by the state and civic administrations, for use to treat patients during the pandemic to minimize the shortfall of 2,000 ICU beds for Covid 19 patients in Mumbai.
For Phadnis, former solicitor general of india Mohan Parasaran appeared from Delhi during the video-conferrer proceedings.
The state through its government pleader PP Kakade and Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) through special counsel Anil Sakhare as well as senior counsel Rafique Dada with Rohan Kelkar for the two hospitals had objected to the PIL being heard on merits.
The BMC, seeking its dismissal with costs, said the “petitioners ought not to be permitted to use judicial machinery under the garb of the present petition to perform executive/policy decision based on …incomplete knowledge.’’
The BMC said it was abiding by the state and Central guidelines in tackling Covid-19 pandemic. It said that authorities and the hospital in its public private partnership of several decades are working together as a “more successful tool’’ to provide facilities to the poor.
“As and when circumstances so demand, the BMC will take appropriate policy decision regarding requisition of private medical facilities within Mumbai including but not limited to the two Wadia hospitals if required to protect and preserve public health and safety as well as the larger public interest,’’ said the BMC in its affidavit.
The hospitals are treating Covid-19 patients with the 243-bedded children’s hospital having set up 30 bed ICU for Covid children patients and the maternity hospital with 75 beds for critical care has set up separate ward with 50 beds for treating women with Covid-19.
The hospitals questioned the petitioners’ bona fides in filing the PIL and said it “masquerading as one concerned with affairs of state, health authorities, “represents the latest in series of vituperative attacks by them, particularly Phadnis, against founders of the Wadia Hospital and the present chairperson Nusli Wadia.’’
The hospitals said it was not a public but a “private interest litigation’’ “totally lacking in bona fides.’’
Phadnis, in his rejoinder, he was formerly a vice president in Bombay Dyeing and refuted the Hospital’s allegations of having any private interest in the PIL.
He said, “I have no personal interest in the present litigation and have one and only motive to facilitate transformation of these two Wadia Hospitals into All India Institutes of Medical Research and Referral for Woman and Children.
In Response to BMC’s affidavit, he said his PIL was all about creating additional “dedicated Covid Hospital (DCH)” by using the two Wadia Hospitals and said the BMC has failed to explain how many ICU beds are there in each DCH.