Updated: March 24, 2021 4:12:18 am
THE STATE government has appealed before a division bench against the order of a single-judge bench of the Gujarat High Court that issued a notice to it and the retired Justice DA Mehta Inquiry Commission, and restraining the latter from submitting its report to the state government until the next date April 5. The Shrey Hospital victim families in their plea before the single judge have sought the court’s direction to the inquiry commission to provide the families with documents pertaining to the August 2020 Shrey Hospital ICU fire case.
The court of Justice Vipul Pancholi, in its order of March 19, had opined that the victim families’ plea “cannot be dismissed at the threshold and it requires detailed hearing”. It had also granted interim relief to the petitioners, restraining the inquiry commission from pronouncing its report, pending final disposal of the petition before the Gujarat HC. A fire in the intensive care unit of the private Covid hospital had killed eight patients in August last year.
Advocate General Kamal Trivedi, representing the state government, informed the division bench of Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Justice Ashutosh Shastri, which is hearing the appeal by the state government against the single judge’s order, that the inquiry commission’s work has concluded and only submission of the report to the government remained.
Trivedi said the panel was set up to look at the factual matrix of the case. “We are very much keen that the report is made available to us, is studied, and we take consequential action. Today, because of the order of the learned single judge, the production of the report has been stayed,” Trivedi said.
The Supreme Court had taken suo motu cognizance in the Rajkot hospital fire case in November last year and made certain observations regarding the Shrey Hospital fire too. Subsequently, the state government had transferred the inquiry in the Shrey Hospital fire case to the retired Justice DA Mehta Commission from an inquiry panel headed by retd Justice KA Puj. The DA Mehta Inquiry Commission was expected to conclude the inquiry by March 31. The state government has sought the March 19 order by the court of Justice Vipul Pancholi be quashed and set aside.
Meanwhile, senior advocate Percy Kavina, representing the victim families — Kalpit Shah, who lost his grandfather and uncle, and Samir Mansuri who lost his brother in the blaze, submitted the appeal of the state government against the order passed by the single judge was “in itself a breach of the spirit of what we understand to be a common law in general and of the raison d’etre of the commission of inquiry in particular”.
“The entire idea was that the commission of inquiry will be a separate standalone body funded and set up by the government, but independent of the government. This appeal and the appearance by the principal law officers of the state (advocate general Kamal Trivedi and government pleader Manisha Shah) as appellants… is violative of that basic principle,” Kavina submitted. The government pleader had appeared before the single judge, representing both the state government as well as the (retd) Justice DA Mehta inquiry commission.
Kavina added the accused in the case are alleged to be “high and mighty people” and also submitted that the appeal filed is not maintainable and is premature as the state government is not an aggrieved party owing to the single judge’s order restraining it from pronouncing its final report and that the state government has chosen to challenge an order upon mere issuance of notice. The matter is expected to be taken up for further hearing on Wednesday.
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