The Supreme Court Tuesday expressed displeasure over Gujarat government’s report regarding the recent fire in a designated COVID-19 hospital in Rajkot in which several patients had died, saying no attempts should be made to suppress the facts. “We have seen Gujarat’s reply. Five people have died on the seventh floor. What kind of affidavit is this? No attempts should be made to suppress the facts,” said a bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan which had last week taken cognisance of Rajkot fire incident.
“Inquiry committee has been constituted. The FIR was lodged but people have got bail for whatever reasons. Commissions after commissions are constituted but nothing happens,” said the bench, also comprising Justices R S Reddy and M R Shah.
The bench asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to look into the report and ensure that better affidavit is filed in the apex court.
“Mr Mehta, you look into the affidavit and see what are they filing,” the bench said.
Mehta told the bench he would look into the report and talk to the state government on this. The bench has posted the matter for hearing on December 3.
Mehta apprised the bench that the Centre has issued guidelines on fire safety in hospitals across the country. “The Central government have issued guidelines on fire safety. I have filed the affidavit,” Mehta told the bench.
The Centre on Monday had asked all states to ensure proper fire safety in hospitals and nursing homes, saying utmost precautions must be taken at a time when the country is fighting the coronavirus pandemic. Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla had written a letter to the chief secretaries of all states and Union territories in the wake of recent fire incidents in two hospitals in Gujarat which killed 14 people.
The home secretary had said occurrence of various fire incidents in hospitals and nursing homes in recent past and non-adherence of fire safety measures by authorities in their respective jurisdiction is a matter of concern. The apex court had on November 27 taken cognisance of fire outbreak in the ICU of a designated COVID hospital at Rajkot in Gujarat in which five patients died and had pulled up the states for not taking any concrete action to mitigate the problem despite repeated instances.
The top court had termed the Rajkot fire incident as shocking and said this is a very serious thing and it reflects the situation of designated government hospitals as similar instances have taken place in other places also. It had said such incident showed that there are no proper fire safety measures in place there to deal with such situation.
Mehta had assured the apex court that home secretary would convene a meeting on this issue preferably today or latest by tomorrow and proper directions would be given.
Gujarat Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel had earlier said that 26 patients at the hospital in Rajkot were rescued and shifted to other facilities, while five other patients died. The fire broke out around 12.30 am last Friday in the ICU ward located on the first floor of the four-storey Uday Shivanand Hospital in Anand Bungalow Chowk area, where around 31 patients were admitted, Patel had added.
The issue cropped up before the bench which was hearing the matter in which it had taken cognisance regarding need for proper treatment of COVID-19 patients and dignified handling of dead bodies in the hospitals.
The top court on November 23 had said that the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened in Delhi and gone out of control in Gujarat and had directed the Centre and all states to apprise it of the steps taken to contain the situation nationwide.