'Protecting illegality': SC lashes out at Gujarat govt over Court order on fire safety at COVID-19 hospitals

The Supreme Court on Monday severely lashed out at the Gujarat Government for a notification reversing its order on fire safety norms in Covid-19 hospitals, calling it a breach of the court’s order and that the government seems to be “protecting illegality.”

Heading a division bench, Justice DY Chandrachud asserted, “Once there is an order by us, it cannot be overridden by an executive notification like this. You (the State) 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." Describing the notification a breach of the apex court’s order, the judge fumed, "The notification gives the impression that the state is protecting illegality," the court said.

The apex court was referring to a recent notification by the Gujarat Government granting time until 2022 to all hospitals to adhere to the Supreme Court orders. When the State sought time to file its reply, the court demanded an answer on Monday itself.

Justice MR Shah, who was part of the bench, stated, “We read in newspapers that Gujarat had brought out a notification giving time till March 2022 for hospitals to comply with our orders."

Asking the government to explain the notification through an affidavit, the division bench directed the government to submit an action taken report regarding the fire safety audit conducted under the court's order of December 2020.

Justice Chandrachud observed, “At Nashik (Maharashtra), one person recovered and was to be released the next day. Two nurses went to the washroom. All were burnt alive.” He went on, "These are human tragedies unfolded before our eyes. Hospitals have become a large real estate industry and they survive on human stress. Hospitals in small four rooms must be closed."

Gujarat has witnessed at least half a dozen incidents of fire at Covid-19 hospitals since August, including in Shrey Hospital (Ahmedabad) in August 2020 where eight people were killed, Uday Shivanand Hospital (Rajkot) in November with six fatalities and at another hospital in Bharuch in May this year which claimed 18 lives.

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Free Press Journal