Bombay High Court pulls up state govt over hospital fires: ‘Do not want hospitals becoming Jatugrih’

The HC also observed that the safety of patients was of paramount importance and it does not want hospitals turning into potential “Jatugrih/ Lakshagrih”

The Bombay High Court pulled up the state government over recent accidents including fire incidents in hospitals across Maharashtra, and said that fire audits and compliances should be undertaken in an expeditious manner.

The HC also observed that the safety of patients was of paramount importance and it does not want hospitals turning into potential “Jatugrih/ Lakshagrih” — a house made of wax through which the Kauravas attempted to eliminate the Pandavas during their exile, as referred to in the Mahabharat.

A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish S Kulkarni was hearing a PIL filed by city-based lawyer Sneha Marjadi alleging improper management of Covid-19 treatment in Maharashtra and seeking directions pertaining to shortage of remdesivir and oxygen supply among others.

The court took serious note of various fire incidents and accidents that took place in the last two months across Maharashtra, including the recent one wherein at least four patients admitted in the intensive care unit of a private hospital in Mumbra in Thane district were killed after a major fire broke out early Wednesday.

The court broadened the scope of the PIL and said, “You (civic authorities) have to conduct a fire audit of all hospitals and seek compliance earliest. If you are giving admissions in hospitals to patients, you should save lives there,” the HC said.

The bench went on to say, “They (patients) are already going through agony, pain and then they are hospitalized. They should not be suffering like this. Who has the time to check if hospitals are safe or not? We understand these are special times and everything is put to test. We have to leave our work aside and look into basic compliances. We do not want any fire incidents now.”

The court, while asking authorities to give status report on fire audits, also said that the failure of private hospital management to put in place adequate fire safety measures must be viewed “seriously”. It noted, “We permit closure of such hospitals, notwithstanding the prevailing situation of dearth of hospital beds, if any hospital is found to be seriously deficient. However, if the deficiencies can be cured readily without wasting much time and effort, we leave the respondents free to take such action as the circumstances would warrant.”

The court reiterated that it was the duty of citizens to strictly follow Covid-19 restrictions and protocols and observed that the same was neglected, resulting in a contributing factor for the Covid-19 second wave.

In light of this, the court asked Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni to “advise” the state government to consider at least a 15-day total lockdown “like last year”.

CJ Datta asked AG Kumbhakoni, “Do you think that current restrictions are working and that only those people with urgent business are on the roads? We are not passing any mandamus, but please advise the government. At least for 15 days, if people stay indoors unless there is absolute need to come out, we may expect better results.”

The court posted further hearing to May 4.

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