Mumbai: The Maharashtra government and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) told the Bombay High Court on Tuesday that they will inform the court by Friday whether vacant tenements in Mahul in suburban Chembur will be used for quarantining suspected COVID-19 patients, including inmates of Arthur Road jail.
The authorities made the submission before a bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Amjad Sayed via video conferencing.
The bench was hearing a public interest litigation filed by Sharda Tevar, the mother of an undertrial at Arthur Road prison, and by NGO Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan.
The petitioners, through advocate Ronita Bector, submitted that as per news reports, state authorities were contemplating using two buildings in Mahul as quarantine facilities.
However, all buildings in the said area, built for rehabilitating those whose homes were affected by various BMC development projects, have been considered uninhabitable by Bombay HC and NGT previously.
"We told HC that these buildings were considered unsafe by the Supreme Court too due to the toxic pollution in the area because of refineries and industries. Now if such people who are suspected to or are suffering from COVID-19 are brought to such an area that is heavily polluted and poses further health risks, then the very purpose of quarantine gets defeated," Bector said.
"Also, as COVID-19 patients have severe respiratory diseases it would be improper to quarantine them in Mahul," she said.
As per the petition, Mahul is a heavily industrialized belt and home to refineries of Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited, Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited, Rashtriya Chemicals and Fertilisers, and Bhabha Atomic Research Centre.
The HC, on September 23 last year, stopped project affected persons from being rehabilitated in these buildings.
Bector also told the court that some news reports have claimed that the state government had temporarily rescinded its decision and, hence, it must issue a clarification on the same.
Government pleader Poornima Kantharia and senior advocate Anil Sakhare, for BMC, sought time to take instructions and inform the court at the next hearing on May 15.