The Gujarat government was pulled up by the Supreme Court today for bringing a notification to reverse its order on fire safety norms in Covid hospitals, even after the deaths of a number of patients in multiple fire incidents. Accusing the state of a breach of order, the judges said the notification only gives more time to hospitals that do not have a fire safety system and till they take action, patients will continue to die. "The notification gives the impression that the state is protecting illegality," the court said.
"Once there is an order by us, it cannot be overridden by an executive notification like this. You (Gujarat) now give carte blanche and say hospitals do not have to adhere (to the order) till 2022 and people will continue to die by burning," said Justice DY Chandrachud.
"At Nashik (Maharashtra) one person recovered and was to be released next day. Two nurses went to washroom. All were burnt alive," Justice Chandrachud said. "These are human tragedies unfolded before our eyes. Hospitals have become large real estate industry and they survive on human stress. Hospitals in small four rooms must be closed," he added.
Demanding that the state explain the notification through an affidavit, the judges asked the state government to also submit an action taken report regarding the fire safety audit conducted under the court's order of December 2020.
Gujarat wanted time to file its reply, but the top court asked about the notification today. "We read in newspapers that Gujarat had brought out a notification giving time till March 2022 for hospitals to comply with our orders," said Justice MR Shah, who was part of the bench.
In late November, six people had died at Rajkot's Uday Shivanand Hospital, where Covid patients were treated. The police said the fire started in the Intensive Care Unit, and investigation revealed negligence on part of the hospital authorities, PTI reported.
Terming the incident "shocking", the Supreme Court had said the state was suppressing facts. "According to you (Gujarat) everything is good, but your stand is contrary to your own Chief Electrical Engineer's report about wiring," the court had said.
In May this year, 18 people died at a hospital in Bharuch after yet another fire. The Gujarat High Court, furious, had declared that "somebody has to be made accountable".
Pointing out that the state government failed to take action on its previous orders on preventing fire incidents, the High Court said, "It amounts to the contempt of courts, of all the orders passed by the courts in the past. Ultimately, it amounts to the contemptuous action on the part of the state for not being vigilant so that such incidents are not repeated again and again".