Shrey Hospital case: Victims’ families demand CBI inquiry

All eight people in the ICU had died in a fire on August 6, 2020


Families of people who perished in the fire that broke out in the ICU of Shrey Hospital, a Covid-19 care facility in Ahmedabad last month, are now demanding a CBI inquiry into the incident. The fire was reportedly the result of a short circuit, but the families now suspect foul play. Moreover, they are disappointed with not just the investigation, but also how milder sections of the law have been applied in the matter.

Advocate Suhel Tirmizi who lost his wife Ayesha in the incident says, “The charges against the perpetrators were not serious enough. They were just booked under 304 A of the IPC instead of 304.”

Four days after the fire broke out, FIR bearing No. 11191036200654 was registered on August 10 at Navrangpura Police Station, Ahmedabad for offences under sections 304A (causing death by negligence not amounting to murder), 336 (rash and negligent act endangering human life), 337 (causing hurt to any person by negligent or rash act as to endanger human life) and 338 (causing grievous hurt by act endangering human life) of the Indian Penal Code.

Section 304 A deals with causing death by negligence and says, “Whoever causes the death of any person by doing any rash or negligent act not amounting to culpable homicide, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.”

It is therefore a milder section of the law than Section 304 that deals with culpable homicide not amounting to murder. According to this section, “Whoever commits culpable homicide not amounting to murder shall be punished with 1[imprisonment for life], or imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine, if the act by which the death is caused is done with the intention of causing death, or of causing such bodily injury as is likely to cause death, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, or with fine, or with both, if the act is done with the knowledge that it is likely to cause death, but without any intention to cause death, or to cause such bodily injury as is likely to cause death.”

The punishment under Section 304 A is also just up to two years which is a mere slap on the wrists, as compared to a more stringent punishment under Section 304.

“When students at a coaching centre in Taxila Arcade in Surat died in a fire, police charged the perpetrator with Section 304. How can they treat this fire at a hospital ICU less seriously,” asks Advocate Tirmizi. He says there are many aspects of the case that the police have failed to address in their investigations so far.

“Three out of four CCTV cameras were not functioning, and the one that was, its view was blocked by an opaque curtain. Moreover, fire-fighting equipment was neither available in the ICU, nor were staff trained to handle it. Finally, mobile phones of patients miraculously survived a fire that left people dead with over 80 percent burns, some were ringing even afterwards. This suggests they were removed from the ICU, maybe to prevent the patients from calling anyone for help during the fire, or maybe someone stole them. Either way, this happened when the people and their property like phones were inside the hospital and thus their safety was the hospital’s responsibility,” says Advocate Tirmizi. “Moreover, why didn’t anyone from the hospital call me and inform me? The doctor in charge had my number and regularly texted me. But on that day, even though the fire broke out at 3:30 A.M, I had to find out from the family of another patient who was being shifted to a different hospital,” he says.

 “At this point I don’t want to speculate on who was behind it or what their motive was, I just want a thorough investigation by the CBI because the police appear to have overlooked all these key issues crucial to the investigation. I also want proper charges to be filed,” says Advocate Tirmizi.

He also feels that the hospital authorities are reluctant to accept responsibility. “The incident took place on August 6 and the FIR was filed on August 10 and it was the trustee who was arrested initially. At that time, he didn’t say anything about the two class four employees who were responsible for taking care of ICU patients. This is very curious that he didn’t immediately name the people responsible? Are they being made scapegoats,” he asks. On August 10, trustee and administrator Bharat Mahant was arrested and subsequently released on bail. On August 21, Babu Ahir and Mahesh Odedara were arrested after the hospital said that the safety of the ICU inmates was their responsibility.

The matter of phones has also been raised by family members of victims, some of whom have now sent representations to the police highlighting issues that need a closer look. In a representation to the Assistant Commissioner of Police, A Division, Ahmedabad City, Rajesh Sha, the son of the deceased Lilavatiben Shah says, “It would also be crucially important to inform you that on 6 th August 2020 at 7:22 am I made a call on the mobile phone (Micromax) number ********** which was with my Late mother until the night of 5 th August 2020, however, nobody responded. When I called up on the same number at 7:27 am, the phone was switched shockingly switched off. I thereafter received a call from the mobile phone (Micromax) number belonging to my mother Late Smt. Lilavatiben Shah having number – 8866029454 at 1:17 pm and my phone rang 4 times. However, since I missed the phone call from my Late mother’s mobile phone, I immediately called back on her number at 1:18 pm which was answered by a lady from an area in Ahmedabad named Bapunagar. Upon enquiring as to how did she get possession of the mobile phone belonging to my Late mother which was in the ICU ward with my Late mother, I was informed that the lady who answered the phone call is mother of a lady named Manisha who works at Shrey Hospital and that she was given the mobile phone by Manisha. The lady further threatened me not to call on the mobile phone and that she will be deleting the details from my Late mother’s mobile phone, which admittedly did not belong to her, and proceeded to disconnect the phone. Thereafter, I tried to call on the said mobile phone on 11 th August 2020 at 10.13 am, 3.43 pm and 3.50 pm but the phone could not connect.”

Shah has added screen grabs of the call log and submitted it to the police asking that the phone be retrieved and returned. Shah also demands that his representation be treated as a formal complaint and asked for certified copies of the Investigation Report, FSL report and the Spot Panchnama.

A copy of the FIR may be read here:


8 killed in Ahmedabad Covid-19 Hospital Fire 
Ayesha Tirmizi was recovering when her life was cut short



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