SC to hear plea on Muzaffarpur encephalitis outbreak today

New Delhi: The Supreme Court will hear on Monday the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by two lawyers, in connection with the outbreak of the Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district in which 130 children have lost their lives.

The plea, filed by advocates Manohar Pratap and Sanpreet Singh Ajmani, seeks a direction to urgently constitute a team of medical experts for treatment of children suffering from encephalitis.

A vacation bench of Justices Deepak Gupta and Surya Kant is slated to take up the plea.

The petition sought a direction to the Centre and the Bihar government to immediately arrange a 500-bed ICU (intensive care unit) with required medical professionals to deal with the emergent situation, which has occurred due to the outbreak of AES.

The two lawyers have also pleaded a direction to the Bihar government to notify an “extraordinary government order” directing all private medical institutions in the affected area to admit and provide treatment free of cost to the patients.

The PIL said that the disease is completely curable and lives of children are being lost due to the “inaction” of the state machinery, which “failed” to take any steps to prevent the outbreak.

Despite the death of more than 100 children, the state government has shown “no prompt” steps to prevent the spread of the disease in adjoining districts, the plea contended.

“There is a complete failure of the state machinery to deal with the outbreak of Japanese encephalitis (JE), AES or ‘chamki bukhar’. There is no availability of doctors, beds, intensive care units to deal with an epidemic-level situation which has resulted in more than 126 reported death of children in Bihar particularly in Muzaffarpur and its adjoining areas,” it said.

The petitioners also sought a direction to the Centre and the Bihar government to constitute a fact-finding committee to determine the role of persons or entities who were negligent resulting in the deaths.

The PIL submitted that the Bihar government should pay a compensation of Rs 10 lakh to the next of kin of each of the deceased.

Encephalitis is a viral disease that causes mild flu-like symptoms such as high fever, convulsions and headache.