SHC irked by absence of key officials in rabies vaccine shortage case

Updated September 26, 2019

Email

The Sindh High Court on Wednesday expressed its displeasure and issued show-cause notices against two senior officials of the health and local government departments for failing to appear during the hearing of a petition about stray dogs and shortage of anti-rabies vaccines in all government-run hospitals in the province. — Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons/File
The Sindh High Court on Wednesday expressed its displeasure and issued show-cause notices against two senior officials of the health and local government departments for failing to appear during the hearing of a petition about stray dogs and shortage of anti-rabies vaccines in all government-run hospitals in the province. — Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons/File

KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Wednesday expressed its displeasure and issued show-cause notices against two senior officials of the health and local government departments for failing to appear during the hearing of a petition about stray dogs and shortage of anti-rabies vaccines in all government-run hospitals in the province.

When the matter came up for hearing before a two-judge SHC bench headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar, two officials of the National Institute of Health (NIH) appeared in court and filed statements on behalf of the federal body.

The lawyer for Karachi Metropolitan Corporation also submitted the civic body’s reply stating that the functions of detention and control of street/stray dogs had been assigned to the district municipal corporations (DMCs).

The court issues show-cause notices to additional secretaries of health and LG departments

The court also issued notices to the DMCs for the next hearing.

In the previous hearing, the court had issued a notice to the additional secretaries of the health and LG departments. However, they were found absent on Wednesday.

The court issued show-cause notices against them directing them to come up with a reply as to why they failed to appear in court.

The bench also directed the additional secretary-health to come up with a clear progress report on Oct 3 regarding availability of the anti-rabies vaccine in all government-run hospitals in Sindh.

The NIH in its reply submitted that it was producing rabies vaccine and anti-rabies serum for public sector since 1950s.

Previously, the NIH was manufacturing sample type rabies vaccine indigenously, but the World Health Organisation had imposed a ban on it in 2008 and it switched over to the production of “cell culture rabies vaccine” in 2009, it added.

The report further stated that the NIH had produced 200,000 doses during the current year as it prepared the vaccine as per demand and issue it after receiving 50 per cent advance payment.

It further maintained that the NIH supplied vaccine to all the provinces in the country as per their demand, adding that 2,500 doses were supplied to Sindh to cope with the present emergency situation and to overcome the shortage of anti-rabies vaccine without even receiving any payment on the request of the Sindh health secretary.

Petitioner lawyer Tariq Mansoor submitted that Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Pechuho had given a statement before the provincial assembly that thousands of dog-bite cases had been reported from across Sindh till June 30 and there was a shortage of anti-rabies vaccines due to the ongoing tension with India and the closure of a Chinese company’s operation.

He maintained that the dog-bite incidents had been on the rise due to the failure of the provincial and local administrations to tackle the situation as stray dogs had not been dealt with, and on the other hand anti-rabies vaccines were not available in government-run hospitals.

The petitioner sought a direction for the provincial and local governments to take necessary steps for vaccination, detention and control of the population of stray dogs as per the WHO guidelines.

JIT ordered to probe ‘staged’ encounter

Another division bench of the SHC on Wednesday directed the home secretary to constitute a joint investigation team to hold a fresh probe into an alleged staged shoot-out in Hyderabad in 2015 in which a doctor sustained serious injuries.

The two-judge bench headed by Justice Salahuddin Panhwar also asked the health secretary to form a medical board to examine Dr Deepak and to provide him free-of-cost treatment.

The petitioner informed the bench that her husband had received serious injuries during the alleged encounter with police and one of his legs was amputated and the other sustained multiple fractures. The right hand was also completely paralysed.

The bench rejected an investigation report filed by DIG Saqib Ismail Memon and observed that the DIG failed to examine the real facts and it was very strange that he did not himself conduct the investigation and handed it over to an SSP.

The police alleged that Dr Deepak was a criminal and he was known as Sharif alias Deepak alias Doctor. However, the bench said that prima facie, police had failed to conduct the investigation properly as till date the police were not sure about his identity, but admitted that the injuries were caused to him due to their action (alleged encounter).

The bench also directed the petitioner to lodge an FIR against then SSP Hyderabad Irfan Baloch, DSP Ahmed Ali Mughal and others about the alleged encounter.

Published in Dawn, September 26th, 2019