After the Bombay High Court expressed displeasure that the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) did not comply with due procedure under the law while taking action against a private hospital in the city, the civic body withdrew its July 30 order that temporarily suspended the licence of a private hospital in Mahim for allegedly overcharging Covid-19 patients. The court said that the civic body’s action was not as per the law and a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction to a viral video related to the hospital.
The BMC through Kiran Dighavkar, assistant commissioner, G-North ward, had issued the order on July 30, revoking the licence of Family Care Hospital for a month under Rule 10 of Covid-19 Regulations under Epidemic Diseases Act.
A division bench of Justice S J Kathawalla and Justice Madhav Jamdar was hearing through videoconference a petition filed by Scandent Imaging Limited, which runs the hospital, challenging the BMC order. The court said that the civic order was a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction to a video on social media that had gone viral last month. The said video had claimed that a Covid-19 patient died at the hospital due to gross negligence of the authorities.
However, the patient’s Covid-19 test report, which came two days after his death, suggested that he had tested negative. The HC further examined the procedure followed by the BMC authorities.
The bench observed that the law prescribed that 30-day notice was to be given to the nursing home before suspending its licence. However, it was observed that in the present case, about two days were given to the hospital and referred to alleged overcharging of Covid-19 patients.
The bench further said that while the BMC order referred to the viral video, its officials could not verify the claims made in it. It further said that the BMC did not consider hospital’s response while passing the order.
As per earlier court directions, BMC Commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal remained present during the hearing through videoconferencing on Tuesday.
When Chahal appeared, the bench told him that it had a ‘very serious grievance’ against BMC officials and referred to lapses in the July 30 order. Pulling up the civic body, the bench said, “The corporation cannot be allowed to function like this.”
The BMC commissioner then agreed to withdraw the suspension order. The bench further granted liberty to BMC officials to issue a fresh show-cause notice to hospitals and pass an appropriate order as per law.
The court further asked BMC officials, in future, to ascertain allegations made against any hospital before taking any legal action against it.
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