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5 days after fire killed 8 covid patients: Trustee of pvt hospital in Ahmedabad booked for ‘culpable homicide’

The state government was under pressure from the civil society for failing to take action against the hospital management even after it emerged that the hospital did not have a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the fire department of Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation.

Written by Vaibhav Jha | Ahmedabad |
Updated: August 12, 2020 5:16:05 am
The chargesheet filed in December 2020 stated that the fire started from electrical components and a table fan that malfunctioned in the ICU. (File Photo)

Five days after eight Covid-19 patients were killed in a blaze in the ICU ward of Shrey Hospital in Navrangpura of Ahmedabad, police on Tuesday filed an FIR and booked Bharat Mahant, trustee of the hospital, for “culpable homicide” even as the Gujarat government appointed retired high court judge KA Puj to head a commission to probe the incident.

The FIR comes after Chief Minister Vijay Rupani ordered a judicial probe into the fire incident and state Home Minister Pradipsinh Jadeja asked the police to register an FIR and expedite investigation on Monday evening. The state government was under pressure from the civil society for no FIR against the hospital management even five days after it emerged that the hospital did not have a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the fire department of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC).

Speaking to The Indian Express, LB Zala, assistant commissioner of police (B Division) and investigating officer in the case, said, “An FIR has been filed under Indian Penal Code sections 304A for culpable homicide not amounting to murder, 336 for negligent or rash act to endanger human life, 337 for causing hurt to a person by doing rash or negligent act that endangers human life and 338 for causing grievous hurt by act endangering human life against 57-year-old Bharat Mahant and whosoever comes up as accused in our investigation that is going on,” said Zala.

According to the FIR, accessed by The Indian Express, police investigation showed “grave negligence” from the side of hospital management that resulted in eight deaths.

“It has emerged through the CCTV footage made available to the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) team that the fire started from a short circuit in an electrical appliance kept in the ICU ward. In the investigation by the chief fire officer of the Fire Safety department and FSL team, grave negligence has come out on behalf of Bharat Mahant and others in the case. The Hospital did not have Fire safety and essential NOC due to which there was no audit done by the Fire safety department (sic),” said Zala in the FIR.

“If the audit would have been done, then any shortcoming in the firefighting system of the hospital could have been noticed and lives of eight persons could have been saved. There was no system of fire alarm in the hospital and if there was a working system in place, then patients and staff could have been alerted and lives could have been saved. It has also come to light that the fire extinguisher kept near the ICU ward of Shrey Hospital was not used by the doctors and paramedic staff present on duty at the time of the accident. The hospital management did not provide any firefighting and rescue training to its medical officers and paramedic staff, which shows its grave negligence (sic),” the FIR added.

The fire broke out at the ICU ward on the fourth floor of Shrey Hospital on August 6 around 3.30 am. Initial probe by police indicated that the fire started from a short circuit in the ICU ward as within minutes heavy smoke engulfed the fourth floor, as well as passage between third floor and fourth floor. By the time firefighters arrived the spot, eight patients in the ICU had died. As many as 41 patients were rescued from the other three floors of the hospital.

Meanwhile, in an official release late on Tuesday, Minister of State for Home Pradeepsinh Jadeja the commission headed by Justice (retired) Puj has been asked to submit its probe report within three months.

Two senior IAS officers — Sangeeta Singh and Mukesh Puri — who were asked to inquire into the incident have submitted their report to the state government, it said. “The state government is committed to ensure that no aspect of the incident remains untouched and no guilty goes scot-free. And for that minute inquiry of the incident is mandatory. And in that connection, a commission has been constituted under the provisions of the Commission of Inquiry Act. And Justice (retired) K A Puj has been appointed as its chairman,” the release quoted Jadeja as saying. Headquarter of the commission will be in Ahmedabad.

Justice (retired) Puj was also heading a commission to probe into the allegations of police atrocities on Patidars following a massive rally on August 25, 2015 at GMDC Ground in Ahmedabad. The rally was part of an agitation in which Patidar community was seeking OBC status. Fourteen Patidars had died in police action across the state then. Term of that commission expired on June 30 and Justice (retired) Puj has submitted the commission report to the state government.

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