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Nashik Police lodges FIR, Bombay HC says ‘can’t understand how it happened in civilised society’

The Bombay High Court on Thursday said that the mishap was a matter of concern as such incidents could not have happened in a civilised society.

By: Express News Service | Mumbai |
April 23, 2021 2:31:30 am
nashik oxygen cylinder leak, nashik oxygen cylinder leak, Zakir Hussain hospital, Zakir Hussain hospital oxygen leakOxygen leaking out of the main storage tank at Zakir Hussain municipal hospital in Nashik on Wednesday. (Express photo)

The Nashik Police on Thursday registered an FIR under Section 304A (causing death by negligence) of the Indian Penal Code against unnamed individuals in the Dr Zakir Hussain Hospital mishap, in which 24 Covid-19 patients died on Wednesday after oxygen supply was disrupted due to a leakage in the main storage tank.

The Bombay High Court on Thursday said that the mishap was a matter of concern as such incidents could not have happened in a civilised society.

The FIR stated that the deaths occurred due to a leak in the tank that was supplying oxygen to the patients. The leak occurred due to the callousness and carelessness of the unnamed accused, it added.

The 13 kilo litre liquid oxygen tank that was installed at the Nashik hospital had been in use only for the last 21 days before a malfunction in one of its valves led to disruption in supply, leading to the deaths.

The tanks had been set up by Taiyo Nippon Sanso Private Limited as part of a contract awarded by the Nashik Municipal Corporation (NMC) to set up such tanks on a rental basis in two Covid-19 facilities in the city. Under the contract, NMC had to pay Rs 1.62 crore to rent the tanks and Rs 2 crore to refill them for a period of 10 years. A contract with these terms was sent to the company last September. The tank was, however, made operational only by March 31.

The police, meanwhile, have deputed three teams to record statements of the victims, hospital officials and employees of the company that was responsible for maintaining the tank and refilling it. While the statements of some family members of the victims and hospital officials were recorded on Thursday, officials from the company that set up the tank have been asked to present themselves before the police on Friday.

While the Nashik Police is investigating the case, the Maharashtra government has also set up a seven-member inquiry committee – to be headed by Nashik Divisional Commissioner Radhakrishna Game – to probe the incident.

On Thursday, the BJP-ruled NMC also ordered its own independent inquiry into the incident. The proposal was mooted by NMC Standing Committee chairman and BJP corporator Ganesh Gite. The committee will include corporators and NMC officials.

Meanwhile, the HC, while taking cognizance of the mishap, said on Thursday: “We fail to understand how it can happen in a civilised society. While oxygen is less in supply, leakage is happening. It is a matter of concern. This is not what we expect from a responsible government.”

Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni, appearing for the Maharashtra government, told the bench that the leakage and subsequent dropping of pressure resulted in the deaths. He also submitted a preliminary report on the incident prepared by the local authority, which has also been submitted to the state chief secretary.

As per the report, Kumbhakoni said, the oxygen tank was installed based on a contract with a private company, which was also responsible for its maintenance. “Oxygen was flowing but pressure was less. The same day, oxygen was refilled into these tanks. They inspected and found leakage in the valve. They invited engineers to attend to this fault. In the meantime, the tanker arrived with oxygen to fill the tank,” he added.

“The entire oxygen in the tank leaked due to low pressure. Oxygen pressure dropped to such a level that supply to the hospital almost stopped. This resulted in a cut-off of oxygen supply and the situation continued till about one hour and 20 minutes, when deaths occurred,” he further said.

The HC directed the state to submit a detailed report on the incident by putting its submissions in an affidavit before the next hearing on May 4.

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