Ahmedabad Civil Hospital “as good as a dungeon”: Guj HC slams state gov’t

Two days later, state government “discreetly” moves court for urgent hearing on Eid without informing litigant’s lawyers or Amicus Curiae!

Covid 19Image Courtesy:deccanchronicle.com

The Gujarat High Court, in a scathing order, has hauled the Gujarat administration over the coals over its mismanagement of the burgeoning health crisis in the state amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. However, displaying shocking impunity, just two days later, the state government approached the court for an urgent hearing without even informing lawyers of the opposite party!

The HC had taken suo motu cognizance of the crisis combining its case with a batch of petitions along the same lines. A bench comprising Justices JB Pardiwala and Ilesh J Vora presided over the matter where they had demanded a response from the state government via an order dated May 16, 2020 about “steps taken so far as regards the problems of migrants, arrangements made with the private hospitals for the treatment of the COVID ­ 19 patients, etc.”

The government of Gujarat then filed a detailed report which basically just passed on the blame to “greedy” private hospitals. But this left the court unimpressed. In an order dated May 22, the court observed, “We are very sorry to state that the Civil Hospital, Ahmedabad, as on date, appears to be in an extremely bad shape. Ordinarily, the citizens hailing from a poor strata of society are being treated at the Civil Hospital. This does not mean that human life is not to be protected. Human life is extremely precious and it should not be allowed to be lost at a place like the Civil Hospital at Ahmedabad.”

But the court’s verbal flagellation did not end with this. In fact, it only got more severe. The court further asked, “We wonder, how many times the Health Minster of the State has visited the Civil Hospital at Ahmedabad so as to keep a watch or take stock of what is going on at the Civil Hospital. Does the Health Minister of the State of Gujarat has (sic) any idea about the   problems which the patients, doctors, nursing staff and other employees are facing as on date? How many times the Health Minister has interacted with the Medical Officers and other staff members in person so as to understand their difficulties and problems? We wonder whether the Chief Secretary of the Health Department has any idea as to what is going on in the Civil Hospital? We wonder how many times the Chief Secretary of the Health Department has paid visit to the Civil Hospital? Is the State Government aware of the hard fact that the patients at the Civil Hospital are dying because of lack of adequate number of ventilators? How does the State Government propose to tackle this problem of ventilators?”

Delivering a final pointed nail in the coffin the court says, “As we said earlier that the Civil Hospital is meant to treat the patients. However, it appears that as on date, it is as good as dungeon. May be even worst then a dungeon. Unfortunately, the poor and helpless patients have no option.”

It is noteworthy that the matter of faulty and even allegedly fake ventilators was first reported by Ahmedabad Mirror on May 19, where it was revealed that over 900 of these ‘fake’ ventilators had been installed across government hospitals in Gujarat without proper performance trails or even the mandatory license from the Drug Controller General of India.

Young whistle-blower behind the case

It has emerged that a 25-year-old health professional may have played whistle-blower triggering the entire case. The whistle-blower, who as per the letter works in the gynecology department, had written to the court alleging that no senior doctors were tending to patients and it was only junior doctors, many of whom were not even given proper PPEs, masks and gloves were treating Covid-19 patients. The whistle-blower also revealed that some residents who tested positive were criticized for getting the tests done, many junior doctors were also dubbed “kaamchor” or lazy. Nearly 30 resident doctors were isolated at Hotel Marriot. But the whistle-blower’s most shocking revelation was reported by The Indian Express where he claimed, “They are not understanding that being COVID +ve, if we work with patients in non-COVID duty then patients will get affected by the virus, instead of getting cured. On the day I was tested positive, I conducted 3 Normal deliveries and one C-section, and almost came in contact with 20 patients directly and their newborns. There has been no contact tracing done for the same. No authority has inquired about it.”

State gov’t moves HC “discreetly”

However, after this scathing judgment by the Gujarat High Court matters got murkier. Just two days after this scathing order, government officials tried to “discreetly” move a civil application before the HC. Firstly, it was a court holiday on account of Eid. Secondly, the urgent hearing was conducted allegedly without allowing the lawyers representing the litigants to appear! In fact, even the court appointed amicus curiae BJ Trivedi was kept in the dark, prompting him to file a complaint.

According to Deccan Herald, in a letter to the Chief Justice, Trivedi states, “a government pleader instructed an officer of high court registry not to send the link (of video conference) to any other advocates.” He further says in his letter, “This is shocking and amazing as the said officer is attached to the registry as a very senior officer and is not supposed to take any orders from the Government Pleader. A detailed inquiry is the crying need of the hour and till then, the said officer is required to be suspended.”

The letter further says that it was “equally shocking that when the hearing took place, the Division Bench also permitted the proceedings to take place without presence of any other advocates appearing either as Amicus Curie or appearing for respective parties. This is unprecedented and such practice is to be deprecated.” Trivedi also stated, “This unsavory incident will certainly not be a good omen, when we are all trying to go for Video Conference hearing, as now all will have doubts, as to whether something may not happen behind their back.”

The entire Gujarat HC order may be read here:


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