New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday took cognizance of a fire incident in a hospital in Gujarat’s Rajkot, where 5 patients died in the blaze, calling it a “wakeup call” for serious action to prevent any more such incidents.
Expressing anguish over the incident, a bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan and comprising Justices R. Subhash Reddy and M. R. Shah termed it “shocking”, and said that the Gujarat government must be answerable and there can’t just be an inquiry and report.
Citing the fire incident as a wakeup call, the bench said the issues with fire safety in hospitals would not be resolved by merely appointing committees or commissions, and instead, there must a thorough inspection of the premises and the responsibility should be fixed.
The Rajkot hospital fire resulted in the death of five patients in the ICU of the dedicated Covid-19 hospital.
The top court said fire incidents in hospitals killing patients are recurring in states and one hospital after another, and there is no action taken by states to prevent fire. The top court sought response from the Centre, as well as Gujarat by December 1.
“Those who are responsible must be brought to book,” the bench added and directed Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to look into the matter. Mehta submitted he will ensure that the Home Secretary convene a meeting latest by Saturday on fire safety.
The bench emphasised that more rigorous steps should be taken and this should be pan-India. “The Centre has to take a lead, all states need to take proper steps,” said the bench. The top court told Mehta and other states counsel that there should be active and not just committee reports.
The Supreme Court made these observations during the hearing of a suo moto case in connection with the proper treatment of Covid-19 patients and dignified handling of dead bodies in hospitals.
The top court also took strong exception to large gatherings amid the Covid-19 pandemic and cited that 80 per cent people are not wearing masks and the rest who are wearing have the masks hanging from their jaws. Citing Covid-19 situation, the bench said, “things are going from bad to worse”, and no concrete steps have been taken by the Centre.
Emphasising that the Centre and state governments should solidly implement the guidelines to contain a further surge in patients’ numbers, the top court said that in the absence of a vaccine, norms to be observed for fighting the pandemic should be a priority.
“But what is the situation on the ground? Union government must take the lead to implement the guidelines across India. Harsher measures are needed,” it said.