January 31, 2021 12:45:05 am
The Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court has recently directed the state government to pay a compensation of Rs 5 lakh within four months to the legal heirs of Malati Nehete (82), a Covid-19 patient, whose partially decomposed body was found in a toilet cubicle of Jalgaon civil hospital last June. The court also said it has no hesitation to hold that Nehete died “due to culpable negligence of doctors, nurses and paramedic staff on duty…”.
A division bench of Justice Sanjay V Gangapurwala and Justice Shrikant D Kulkarni made the observation on January 27 while passing a judgment on a PIL filed by social worker Pratibha Shinde and two others, who lost loved ones to Covid-19 in the Jalgaon hospital.
The petitioners, through senior counsel Gayatri Singh and advocate Ankit Kulkarni, also sought a high-level inquiry under the state chief secretary into the deaths at the Covid ward of the hospital. The state government said it has already suspended alleged negligent officials, initiated departmental inquiry and registered an FIR in the matter.
Noting that the PIL seeking compensation was “certainly maintainable”, the bench observed, “It is a case of negligence of the hospital administration. The concerned doctors and staff nurses on duty prima facie seem to be responsible for the unfortunate death of Malati Nehete.”
The bench led by Justice Gangapurwala said, “In a welfare state, it is the primary duty of the government to secure welfare of the people. Providing adequate medical facilities for the people is an essential part of obligation undertaken by the government in a welfare state… The preservation of human life is of paramount importance. The government is duty bound to provide timely care of patients in serious conditions. Medical facilities and treatment cannot circumvent at any cost.”
It added that people coming to government and civil hospitals are usually from weaker sections of society as they cannot afford treatment in private and corporate hospitals. “Shortcomings and lapses in providing immediate medical treatment amounts to violation of right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution. The state cannot avoid its constitutional obligation in that regard,” the HC observed.
Disposing of the PIL, the HC also directed principal secretary (public health) to take appropriate action on basis of a report submitted by a three-member committee and another by the Jalgaon district collector into the deaths at the civil hospital “as expeditiously as possible”.
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