New Delhi: The Gujarat High Court has agreed to hear a plea against hospital fires in the state, which alleges that earlier directions issued by the Supreme Court and high court on such fires have not been complied with.
The court has been approached by a lawyer, Amit Manibhai Panchal, who asserted that despite orders passed by the high court “there has been little compliance with the Opponents herein which has resulted in the loss of human lives and property due to the unfortunate Fire incidents in the State of Gujarat”.
He cited seven such incidents in Gujarat between August 2020 and May this year that occurred in Ahmedabad, Jamnagar, Vadodara, Rajkot, Surat and Bharuch.
In his plea, Panchal also specifically referred to a fire that broke out on 1 May at the Patel Welfare Hospital in Bharuch that claimed the lives of 18 people, including two nurses and 16 Covid patients.
This hospital, he alleged, did not have a valid subsisting no-objection certificate issued by the district’s fire department district, for admitting Covid patients.
The lawyer further asserted that this hospital fire “is entirely distressing and has totally devastated the families of the deceased and has created a horror in Bharuch District, amidst the prevailing Covid-19 pandemic”.
Panchal cited orders passed by the high court as well as the Supreme Court on such incidents, and claimed that court orders with regard to obtaining a no-objection certificate from the fire department are not being followed, resulting in such fires.
A bench comprising Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Justice Bhargav Karia issued notice to the state government and other authorities named in the application. They have to file a response on 10 May and the application will be heard on 11 May.
‘Make probe report public’
Among other things, Panchal has demanded that the court should call for a report on the Bharuch fire incident and also make public the probe into the fire tragedy at a Rajkot hospital in Gujarat, which led to the death of five Covid patients.
The state government had constituted an inquiry commission under retired Gujarat high court judge D.A. Mehat in November last year to probe the Rajkot incident.
Later, this commission was also asked to look into a fire incident at another hospital in Ahmedabad as well. This commission submitted its report to Chief Minister Vijay Rupani in March this year.
Panchal has now demanded that this report should be produced before the court, as well as made public, and appropriate directions should be issued to the authorities.
SC had directed state to form fire audit panels
In his application, Panchal cited an order passed by the Supreme Court on 18 December last year, in a suo motu case taking cognisance of the Rajkot fire.
The apex court had, on 18 December last year, directed all the states to constitute a committee in each district to conduct a fire audit of Covid-19 hospitals at least once a month, inform the management of the medical establishment about any deficiency and report to the government for taking follow-up action.
A bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy and M.R. Shah had ordered Covid-19 hospitals, which had not obtained no objection certificates (NOC) from the concerned fire department, to immediately apply for one.
“Those Covid hospitals who have not renewed their NOC should immediately take steps for renewal on which appropriate inspection be taken and decision be taken. In event, Covid Hospital is found not having NOC or not having obtained renewal, appropriate action be taken by the State,” the court had further directed.
Similarly, the Gujarat High Court had also issued a total of 14 directions on 15 December last year.
These included a direction to the authorities to provide the court with details of all hospitals, including Covid hospitals as well as healthcare centres in the state, which do not possess a valid NOC on fire prevention and protection systems.
The high court had also issued specific directions for Intensive Care Units (ICUs) in hospitals, saying that these should have fire retardant material for curtains, bedsheets, ceiling etc.
It had asked the authorities to ensure that electrical points and air conditioners in ICUs are serviced one a month, whole of the ICU should have a sprinkler system installed, ventilators and filters should be installed at the ground level and ICUs should preferably be located only on the ground floor among other orders.