On December 15, while passing orders in a batch of Public Interest Litigations (PIL) in connection with the Shrey Hospital fire case, the Gujarat High Court made a series of pertinent observations and passed orders that are bound to have a far-reaching impact. On August 6, 2020 a fire had broken out in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the hospital leading to the deaths of eight Covid-19 patients.
A bench comprising Justices JB Pardiwala and Ilesh Vora passed order saying, “That pending the hearing and final disposal of the present Petition, this Hon’ble Court be pleased to permit the relatives of the victims of Shrey Hospital Fire mishap to conduct a third party survey of the ICCU Ward through a team consisting of retired fire safety officials.” The bench further ordered the respondent authorities “to offer adequate ex-gratia compensation to the relatives of the victims of Shrey Hospital Fire incident dated 6th August 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. Taking note of his grievances, the court noted that “writ-applicant no.1 is a practicing advocate of this High Court and his wife had to be admitted at the Shrey Hospital in connection with kidney ailment. The wife of the writ-applicant no.1 was to be discharged within a day, but unfortunately she lost her life along with seven others in the fire that engulfed the entire ICU of the Shrey Hospital.” It further noted that “the writ-applicants as the kith and kin of the victims are anxious to know as to who is responsible for this fire. They would like to know from the State Government, whether the accountability of any particular person has been fixed in this regard. They would also like to know from the State Government as to whether the culprits responsible for this have been booked and punished or not so far.”
The court was also shocked to discover that the “building plans in which the Shrey Hospital is running originally was a residential building. In other words, the Corporation had sanctioned the plan as a residential complex, but later revised the same for commercial use upon acceptance of the impact fee.”
The court also took note of government pleader Ms. ML Shah’s submission that “the State Government is doing its best to ensure that the incidents like the one at the Shrey Hospital, does not occur in future on account of lack of adequate fire-fighting measures and other shortcomings in the buildings.” The court noted, “According to Ms. Shah, the State Government is duty-bound to fix the accountability of all the erring persons responsible for the unfortunate incident and will see to it that the guilty persons are proceeded in accordance with law.”
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.”
The entire order may be read here:
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Ayesha Tirmizi was recovering when her life was cut short