Bombay High Court: The Division Bench of Sunil B. Shukre and Avinash G. Gharote, JJ., addressed the issue of Mucormycosis or Black Fungus disease and reluctance of public and private sector companies to abide by their corporate social responsibility. The Bench stated,
“When these corporate entities are enjoined with a statutory duty (See section 135 of the Companies Act, 2013), it is expected that these companies discharge their duties whenever they are called upon to do so and in our opinion, there could have been no better opportunity than the present time and present cause to discharge such duty.”
Corporate Social Responsibility
By the instant suo motu case, the Court had made an attempt to strengthen the health care system in Vidarbha Region, especially in view of Covid -19 pandemic. This Court had urged not only the State Government, but also the public sector companies and private sector companies to make their contributions to the noble cause. The Bench said that if these companies do not respond to the call, the Court would have to issue necessary directions for waking them up and answer the call of their duty. Accordingly, the Divisional Commissioner, Nagpur and of Amravati were directed to obtain the information as regards the availability of CSR funds with all the companies operating in their respective divisions. The Divisional Commissioner was further directed to verify the correctness of the information so provided by these companies.
Counsel for the intervener, Mr. Bhanudas Kulkarni, had highlighted the issue of black fungus or Mucormycosis disease affecting several patients post recovery from Covid-19 disease. He submitted that in last 15 days, 43 eyes had been removed and 26 deaths had occurred, all due to Mucormycosis. Also, in the last two days new 109 cases of Mucormycosis had been reported. He further pointed out that as per the IMA report that some of the relevant factors in the present case include reduction of immunity on account of weakness which develops after recovering from Covid-19 and also due to misuse of steroids. It also points out the treatment to be given to the patients while highlighting the toxicity of some of the drugs which are available for treating this disease in current situation.
Another issue before the Court was regarding high cost of drugs used to treat Mucormycosis and that very high dosage is required of the same which had made it out of reach out several patients. The Bench said that incidence of Mucormycosis has also risen alarmingly. In such a situation, it is necessary that some steps are taken by the Government for bringing down the prices of these drugs to affordable level. Accordingly, the Court urged the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority to look into the matter and issue directives reducing the prices of these drugs to affordable level.
Shortage of Drugs
Noticing the problem of short supply of the drugs used for treatment of Mucormycosis, the Bench opined that there are about 26 companies which are involved in manufacturing of the drugs used for treatment of Mucormycosis, hence it would be appropriate if the Central Government regulates the production and distribution of these drugs across India so that there may not be shortage of these drugs in future. Accordingly, request was made to the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority and Central Drug Controller to issue necessary directions as regards regulation of production of the drugs, increase of production capacity and distribution of these drugs to different States of India on the basis of caseload of each of the States.
Directions of the Court
- Noticing that some of the drugs given to the patients to treat Mucormycosis are highly toxic and affect kidney, the Court directed the State government to issue a detailed and specific SOP for prescription and use of these drugs, preferably giving the contraindications.
- In Vidarbha region, the Division Commissioner, Nagpur and the Divisional Commissioner Amravati were directed to start awareness campaign to acquaint members of public with the cause, effect and preventive measures to be taken to tackle Mucormycosis or black fungus disease.
- Noticing that IMA had already issued the guidelines to be followed to safeguard patients from post Covid-19 black fungus disease, the Bench directed the Divisional Commissioner Nagpur and the Divisional Commissioner, Amravati to give wide publicity to these guidelines in at least three languages Marathi, Hindi and English.
- Further, directions were issued to prepare posters of these guidelines and paste at different places and circulate the same on social media.
[Court on its own motion v. Union of India, 2021 SCC OnLine Bom 742, order dated 19-05-2021]
Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this report together
Appearance before the Court by:
Amicus Curiae: S.P.Bhandarkar
For Union of India: ASGI U.M.Aurangabadkar with Adv.Santok Singh Sokhi and Adv. Deshmukh
For Respondents: GP. Ketki Joshi Addl. GP D.P. Thakare and AGP N.S. Rao
For Respondent 4 and 10: Adv. S.M.Puranik and Adv. B.G.Kulkarni, respectively
For MADC: Adv. C.S.Samundra