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Guj gov’t faces heat for submitting report on fire safety in hospitals to SC in sealed cover

Pressure has been mounting to ensure higher safety standards since the tragic Shrey Hospital fire of August 2020

Sabrangindia 19 Jul 2021

Fire safetyImage Courtesy:deccanherald.com

The Supreme Court has come down heavily on the Gujarat government for a series of decisions regarding fire safety that appear to be contempt of court. The court also appeared flummoxed at the state government’s decision to submit its report in a sealed cover.

“What is this report in sealed cover? It is not a nuclear secret,” Justice DY Chandrachud was quoted as saying by Bar&Bench. Justice Chandrachud was hearing the case along with Justice MR Shah. The court also took umbrage to the state government’s decision to issue an executive notification that hospitals will not be required to adhere to fire safety norms till 2022.

The Bench slammed the state government, reportedly saying, “Once a mandamus is there, it cannot be overridden by an executive notification like this! You now give a carte blanche and say hospitals don't have to adhere till 2022 and people will continue dying and be burnt...”

The Court has hearing a suo moto case concerning fire tragedies at Covid Hospitals after two cases in Rajkot and Ahmedabad. SabrangIndia had previously reported on the fire that broke out in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of Ahmedabad’s Shrey Hospital leading to the deaths of eight Covid-19 patients on August 6, 2020. Advocate Suhel Tirmizi, whose wife Ayesha was one of the victims, had filed a PIL demanding accountability be fixed on various state and hospital authorities. Then in November 2020, another inferno, this time at a Rajkot Covid care hospital claimed five lives.

Two significant orders by the Gujarat HC

Following this, the Gujarat High Court had passed two significant orders. On December 15, 2020, while passing orders in a batch of Public Interest Litigations (PIL) in connection with the Shrey Hospital fire case, the Gujarat High Court had made a series of pertinent observations and passed orders that are bound to have a far-reaching impact.

The court ordered the State of Gujarat “to enact a consolidated Code/Act/Guidelines for fire safety requirement for clinical establishments/hospitals of all kinds setting out minimum standards of fire safety standards to be maintained by clinical establishments/ hospitals such as across the State of Gujarat.” It also directed the state government “to frame rules and guidelines for fire safety in ICU wards of the hospitals.”

It further ordered all respondent authorities “to comply with the provisions of Gujarat Fire Prevention and Life Safety Measures Act, 2013 strictly in clinical establishments such as Hospital/Nursing Homes/ School buildings of the city of Ahmedabad.”

Significantly, it also directed respondent authorities “to make mandatory installation of sprinkles and a fire extinguisher in every room/ward of every Hospital/Nursing Home irrespective of its height with a view to protect lives of innocent and infirm patients who are not capable of escaping any disaster in case of emergency situations.”

Then on February 26, 2021, the court ordered that all Municipal Corporations mentioned in the PIL be served notice. It further ordered, “We direct all the Municipal Corporations to place on C/WPPIL/118/2020 ORDER record by way of an affidavit, a list of all the high rise buildings

-15 metres and 18 metres in height, special buildings, schools, hospitals, industries and factories within the jurisdictional limits of all the Municipal Corporations :

a. Which have a valid and subsisting No Objection Certificate with regard to the Fire Prevention and Protection Systems in the State of Gujarat ;

AND b. Which do not have a valid and subsisting No Objection Certificate with regard to the Fire Prevention and Protection Systems in the State of Gujarat”

The Court had ordered, “Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation is directed to place on record by way of an affidavit, the details of all the private hospitals which have not complied with the directions issued in Paragraph No. 23(14) of our earlier Order dated 15.12.2020” and that it was “directed to place on record the photocopies of the No Objection Certificates issued to all the hospitals located within the jurisdictional limits of Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation signed and certified by the Competent Authority within a period of 10 days from the date of the receipt of this order. One set of such photocopies shall also be furnished to the party-in-person.”

Specifically, when it came to reopening the Shrey Hospital, the court had on February 26, 2021 ordered, “The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation is directed not to remove or open the seals applied at the premises of the Shrey Hospital without the permission of this Court and shall not permit the Management to once again start with the functioning of the Hospital without the permission of this Court.”

The case in the Supreme Court

Following the Rajkot fire at the Uday Shivananda Hospital the SC took suo moto cognizance, and in the case titled, In Re: Proper Treatment of COVID-19 Patients and Dignified Handling of Dead Bodies in the Hospitals, etc., asked the government via an order passed on December 9, 2020, to submit a report comprising data from all states on fire safety audits carried out in hospitals.

Meanwhile, little changed on the ground as yet another fire broke out in the ICU of the Bharuch Welfare Hospital in May this year, killing 18 people. Meanwhile, the Gujarat government issued an executive notification that gave a virtual carte blanche to hospitals by allowing them to function without adhering to fire safety norms till June 2022, and that no action will be taken against them till then. Given the number of lives lost and the direct involvement of the highest court in the country, this notification showcased the Gujarat government’s impunity.

Bar&Bench quoted Justice Shah as saying, “40 hospitals in Gujarat were held liable and they came to High Court. Later, government order was that no action should be taken against hospitals for violation of fire safety. Such an order is a contempt of this court.”

The case has been adjourned for two weeks.

To be updated with order copy.

Related:

Guj HC slams state gov’t for lax attitude to fire safety
Gujarat: 18 Covid patients killed in Bharuch hospital fire!
Shrey Hospital Fire: Guj HC bats for greater accountability
SC takes suo moto cognisance of Rajkot Covid Hospital fire
Shrey Hospital Fire: Four months on, no evidence yet!
8 killed in Ahmedabad Covid-19 Hospital Fire
Another fatal inferno in Gujarat Covid hospital!

Guj gov’t faces heat for submitting report on fire safety in hospitals to SC in sealed cover

Pressure has been mounting to ensure higher safety standards since the tragic Shrey Hospital fire of August 2020

Fire safetyImage Courtesy:deccanherald.com

The Supreme Court has come down heavily on the Gujarat government for a series of decisions regarding fire safety that appear to be contempt of court. The court also appeared flummoxed at the state government’s decision to submit its report in a sealed cover.

“What is this report in sealed cover? It is not a nuclear secret,” Justice DY Chandrachud was quoted as saying by Bar&Bench. Justice Chandrachud was hearing the case along with Justice MR Shah. The court also took umbrage to the state government’s decision to issue an executive notification that hospitals will not be required to adhere to fire safety norms till 2022.

The Bench slammed the state government, reportedly saying, “Once a mandamus is there, it cannot be overridden by an executive notification like this! You now give a carte blanche and say hospitals don't have to adhere till 2022 and people will continue dying and be burnt...”

The Court has hearing a suo moto case concerning fire tragedies at Covid Hospitals after two cases in Rajkot and Ahmedabad. SabrangIndia had previously reported on the fire that broke out in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of Ahmedabad’s Shrey Hospital leading to the deaths of eight Covid-19 patients on August 6, 2020. Advocate Suhel Tirmizi, whose wife Ayesha was one of the victims, had filed a PIL demanding accountability be fixed on various state and hospital authorities. Then in November 2020, another inferno, this time at a Rajkot Covid care hospital claimed five lives.

Two significant orders by the Gujarat HC

Following this, the Gujarat High Court had passed two significant orders. On December 15, 2020, while passing orders in a batch of Public Interest Litigations (PIL) in connection with the Shrey Hospital fire case, the Gujarat High Court had made a series of pertinent observations and passed orders that are bound to have a far-reaching impact.

The court ordered the State of Gujarat “to enact a consolidated Code/Act/Guidelines for fire safety requirement for clinical establishments/hospitals of all kinds setting out minimum standards of fire safety standards to be maintained by clinical establishments/ hospitals such as across the State of Gujarat.” It also directed the state government “to frame rules and guidelines for fire safety in ICU wards of the hospitals.”

It further ordered all respondent authorities “to comply with the provisions of Gujarat Fire Prevention and Life Safety Measures Act, 2013 strictly in clinical establishments such as Hospital/Nursing Homes/ School buildings of the city of Ahmedabad.”

Significantly, it also directed respondent authorities “to make mandatory installation of sprinkles and a fire extinguisher in every room/ward of every Hospital/Nursing Home irrespective of its height with a view to protect lives of innocent and infirm patients who are not capable of escaping any disaster in case of emergency situations.”

Then on February 26, 2021, the court ordered that all Municipal Corporations mentioned in the PIL be served notice. It further ordered, “We direct all the Municipal Corporations to place on C/WPPIL/118/2020 ORDER record by way of an affidavit, a list of all the high rise buildings

-15 metres and 18 metres in height, special buildings, schools, hospitals, industries and factories within the jurisdictional limits of all the Municipal Corporations :

a. Which have a valid and subsisting No Objection Certificate with regard to the Fire Prevention and Protection Systems in the State of Gujarat ;

AND b. Which do not have a valid and subsisting No Objection Certificate with regard to the Fire Prevention and Protection Systems in the State of Gujarat”

The Court had ordered, “Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation is directed to place on record by way of an affidavit, the details of all the private hospitals which have not complied with the directions issued in Paragraph No. 23(14) of our earlier Order dated 15.12.2020” and that it was “directed to place on record the photocopies of the No Objection Certificates issued to all the hospitals located within the jurisdictional limits of Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation signed and certified by the Competent Authority within a period of 10 days from the date of the receipt of this order. One set of such photocopies shall also be furnished to the party-in-person.”

Specifically, when it came to reopening the Shrey Hospital, the court had on February 26, 2021 ordered, “The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation is directed not to remove or open the seals applied at the premises of the Shrey Hospital without the permission of this Court and shall not permit the Management to once again start with the functioning of the Hospital without the permission of this Court.”

The case in the Supreme Court

Following the Rajkot fire at the Uday Shivananda Hospital the SC took suo moto cognizance, and in the case titled, In Re: Proper Treatment of COVID-19 Patients and Dignified Handling of Dead Bodies in the Hospitals, etc., asked the government via an order passed on December 9, 2020, to submit a report comprising data from all states on fire safety audits carried out in hospitals.

Meanwhile, little changed on the ground as yet another fire broke out in the ICU of the Bharuch Welfare Hospital in May this year, killing 18 people. Meanwhile, the Gujarat government issued an executive notification that gave a virtual carte blanche to hospitals by allowing them to function without adhering to fire safety norms till June 2022, and that no action will be taken against them till then. Given the number of lives lost and the direct involvement of the highest court in the country, this notification showcased the Gujarat government’s impunity.

Bar&Bench quoted Justice Shah as saying, “40 hospitals in Gujarat were held liable and they came to High Court. Later, government order was that no action should be taken against hospitals for violation of fire safety. Such an order is a contempt of this court.”

The case has been adjourned for two weeks.

To be updated with order copy.

Related:

Guj HC slams state gov’t for lax attitude to fire safety
Gujarat: 18 Covid patients killed in Bharuch hospital fire!
Shrey Hospital Fire: Guj HC bats for greater accountability
SC takes suo moto cognisance of Rajkot Covid Hospital fire
Shrey Hospital Fire: Four months on, no evidence yet!
8 killed in Ahmedabad Covid-19 Hospital Fire
Another fatal inferno in Gujarat Covid hospital!

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2020

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In the year devastated by the Covid 19 Pandemic, India witnessed apathy against some of its most marginalised people and vilification of dissenters by powerful state and non state actors. As 2020 draws to a close, and hundreds of thousands of Indian farmers continue their protest in the bitter North Indian cold. Read how Indians resisted all attempts to snatch away fundamental and constitutional freedoms.
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