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Sunday, December 04 2022

Guj hospital fires: SC says probe panels not solution, seeks detailed report

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday expressed displeasure at the repeated constitution of committees to probe the fire incidents at two private Covid hospitals in Gujarat’s Rajkot and Ahmedabad, and directed the state to file a report on these incidents by December 11.

A bench, headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan and comprising Justices R. Subhash Reddy and M. R. Shah, queried Solicitor General Tushar Mehta what steps have been taken to ensure these fire incidents do not reoccur. “Unfortunately, it is not on record,” it said.

Justice Bhushan emphasised that constituting a committee after a committee is not the solution to address such incidents, adding the committee would probably visit the hospital after a couple of months, and “would it serve any purpose?”

Mehta replied: “We have nothing to hide, the truth must come out.”

He also submitted that with regard to fire at the Covid Hospital, Rajkot, the enquiry committee chaired by Justice D.S. Mehta (retd) has already been constituted and is looking into the incident. He added that fire accident at the Shreyas Hospital in Ahmedabad may also be looked under the jurisdiction of the same committee so that an early report may be submitted and appropriate measures may be taken with regard to hospitals where a fire broke resulting in the death of several patients.

The bench replied, “It will be open for the Government to do so by issuing appropriate notification.”

Mehta submitted that with regard to Fire Safety Audit, a direction has been issued to all the states to constitute an appropriate committee and compilation of all data is in process and shall be filed along with an affidavit within a period of three days.

To this, the court said: “We further observe that steps taken by different states including the suggestions as was directed by this court on December 3, be placed before this court on the next date of hearing. A detailed affidavit by the Additional Chief Secretary, State of Gujarat may also be filed in compliance of our order dated December 3. Let all affidavits be filed by the end of this week.”

It listed the matter for further hearing on December 14.

On December 1, the Supreme Court had pulled up the Gujarat government over “attempts to suppress facts” in connection with fire tragedies in private Covid hospitals in the state.

The top court had taken cognizance of the fire tragedy in a private Covid hospital in Rajkot which led to the death of five persons. The bench had told the Gujarat government counsel: “We have seen your counter. According to you, everything is good. So far state hospital is concerned, all is well.”

“So far the commission is concerned (to probe the fire tragedy), it has also expired, and also the state government stand is contrary to your own chief electrical engineering officer in connection with the status of wiring in the hospital.”

The bench also cited the Ahmedabad fire tragedy in a Covid-19 hospital in August, where eight people died.

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