The Bombay High Court pulled up the Maharashtra government and asked why it could not compensate the family of an 82-year-old who on June 2 went missing from a Covid-19 ward at Jalgaon Civil Hospital and, eight days later, was found dead in the toilet of the hospital on June 10.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice N J Jamadar made these observations while hearing a PIL by BJP MLA Ashish Shelar over disposal of bodies of Covid-19 victims, with reference to an incident at Sion hospital in which bodies were lying on beds or on the ground, in close proximity to patients being treated for Covid-19.
Expressing serious concern, the HC had widened the scope of the PIL and asked the BMC to respond to the inquiry into the incident and asked state authorities to give details of how bodies of Covid-19 victims are disposed. Referring to written submissions made by Shelar alleging statewide negligence and to an affidavit filed by the state health department, the court pointed out the Jalgaon incident.
As reported by The Indian Express then, the partially decomposed body of Malati Nehete was found curled on the floor of a toilet cubicle in the Jalgaon hospital. Staff at the hospital, where she had been admitted with Covid-19 symptoms, had said that “she had simply walked away”.
The court asked the state to find out if a post-mortem was conducted in the case, and to place the details of the post-mortem report before the court.
The court also noted that after the incident came to light, three doctors, including Dean of Jalgaon civil hospital, were suspended for their negligence and were sent showcause notices. The bench said that the state government needed to do more than issue notices.
CJ Datta said, “We are shocked with this incident. How is it that for a period of seven days somebody could lie in a latrine and none figured out. It is alarming. You (state government) have tried to project it as a stray incident. No doubt it is a stray incident. But is that solace for the family? Don’t you think the government has a responsibility to at least compensate the families?”
The court further asked the government lawyer, “Was any post-mortem conducted? It has really shocked us. If she did not die on June 2, but on June 10, the day the body was found; then it means she must have had to survive for more than seven days without food. If patients are put in such a situation and they (state authorities) do not give a post-mortem report stating when she died, it is inhuman.”
Senior advocate Rajendra Pai for Shelar said that the state government has not denied any such incidents mentioned by petitioner and all have been admitted. Such incidents keep happening as the government takes action in haphazard manner, Pai submitted.
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