New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Centre and the Bihar government to apprise it about the steps taken to prevent the recent deaths of children due to acute encephalitis syndrome (AES).
The court's response came on a PIL filed over the outbreak of AES, which claimed the lives of more than 140 children in Bihar's Muzaffarpur district.
A bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and B.R. Gavai said: "This PIL raises a matter of grave concern about nutrition, sanitisation and hygiene."
The court observed that the deaths due to the outbreak raise valid questions on the availability of medicines along with the public policy in place to counter the current scenario.
The court observed that all the victims were children therefore, it is important to get answers. Issuing the notice, the court has asked the parties to file an affidavit within seven days.
The plea filed by two advocates, Manohar Pratap and Sanpreet Singh Ajmani, contended that the state and Central governments should work in tandem to immediately arrange 500 ICUs (intensive care units) with required medical professionals to deal with the situation.
The court also asked the Uttar Pradesh government to file its reply. The petition contended that a similar outbreak had occurred in the state, which claimed the lives of several children last year.
The court has scheduled the hearing of the matter after 10 days. The petition said that the critical situation had arrived due to the lackadaisical approach of government authorities, as they had ignored children's deaths every year.
"The children are losing their lives in scores due to unavailability of medicines, proper care and lack of intensive care units in hospitals of the area," the petition said.
Seeking the apex court's intervention, the petition said that only the court could save lives of thousands of children.
Referring to the recent strike by doctors, the plea said that it coincidentally took place with the outbreak of the disease, thus affecting the care of patients admitted in government hospitals.
The plea cited media reports to inform the court that there was no availability of medical professionals and infrastructure to contain the epidemic.
As per reports, the Superintendent of Muzaffarpur's S.K. Medical College, where most of the affected children were admitted, expressed his inability in ensuring them proper treatment due to lack of medical facilities, said the petition.
The petitioners contended that the state government must compensate the families of each of the dead with Rs 10 lakh.