The Supreme Court has allowed the appeal filed by the Ahmedabad Medical Association, which has over 11,000 members, seeking directions against the order of the Gujarat High Court which had refused to entertain their petition against the impugned notices of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation for sealing of hospitals which don’t have NOC from the Fire Department of the Corporation or Building Use Permission.
A two-judge bench of Justice Hemant Gupta and Justice V. Ramasubramanian allowed the application as an interim measure, and directed that no coercive steps be taken against anyone. The bench said, “This is not a disputed fact that petitioners neither have taken the NOC from fire department nor having the building use certificate but the medical practitioners are rendering essential services. Therefore, sealing hospitals and nursing homes will not serve any public interest.”
The counsel for the petitioner, Senior Advocate Maninder Singh, has submitted before the Court that the second surge has caused havoc beyond the collective capacity of everyone to deal with it, and there is an extremely serious apprehension of a 3rd wave / surge of much higher intensity and it is unknown that how much loss to human life it may cause. If third wave hits our country approximately 37,000 cases could be recorded every day in the Delhi only. He further submitted that, if this SLP got dismissed more than 30,000 hospital beds will not remain available in State of Gujrat and around 100 small hospitals and Nursing Homes have to be shut.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta has submitted that it would not be advisable to seal the hospital in this time of pandemic. He advised the Court to examine the matter and grant some interim relief to the petitioners.
After going through all the facts and circumstances, the Apex Court ordered not to take any coercive action on account of lack of building use certificate and NOC from Fire Department. The Court has issued notice to the State to provide any workable solution to this issue listing the matter after eight weeks.
The present Petition is being preferred against the Judgment passed by the Division Bench of the Hon’ble Gujarat High Court at Ahmedabad dated 03.06.2021 that had been preferred by the Petitioners herein challenging the identical notices issued by Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation [“Corporation / AMC”] for sealing of the Hospitals of the Petitioners in case they did not possess NOC from Fire Department of the Corporation and/or Building Use Permission.
By the impugned Judgment dated 03.06.2021, the Hon’ble Division Bench of the High Court of Gujarat has rejected the Petition at the admission stage itself. Petitioner has submitted in the petition that it had been observed in the State of Gujarat [and the same was the position in all parts of the country] that there had been shortages regarding availability of beds in the hospitals for treatment of COVID-19 patients. Hospitals are still substantially occupied even when the graph of second wave is coming down. Much higher infrastructural and bed capacity would indeed be necessary for any further surge of COVID-19 where an apprehension has been expressed of a 3rd wave. It is most humbly submitted that however, the inevitable consequence of the impugned order is that during the extremely difficult time of COVID-19 – approximately more than 30,000 beds will not remain available in the State of Gujarat.
The issue came in the picture when in the month of August 2020, there was an unfortunate fire incident in Shrey Hospital of Ahmedabad, which led to loss of 8 innocent lives. It appears that in this connection, Writ Petition (PIL) No. 118 of 2020 was filed before the Hon’ble Gujarat High Court seeking various reliefs.
In the meantime, Ahmadabad Municipal Corporation issued a Public Notice on 22.02.2021, stating that under the prevalent laws, it is necessary to obtain Building Use (“B.U.”) permission and fire NOC before occupying any premises. The said notice further reads that those persons who do not have a B.U. permission and / or fire NOC may apply for the same, failing which, appropriate action will be initiated against them.
On the basis of the Notice issued, the Petitioner Doctors and numerous other members of the Petitioner No.1 Association were called upon to produce the B.U. Permission and Fire NOC, failing which; they have been threatened that their hospitals will be sealed within 3 days.
The petitioners have also made the representations before the concerned authorities stating that they have been using their respective hospital premises for years together and have been paying Municipal Taxes as well as Electricity Bills at commercial rates applicable to Hospitals. In the meantime AMC has already partially sealed the hospital premises of Petitioner.
Aggrieved by the notice issued and action was taken by the AMC the petitioners approached the Gujarat High Court seeking some intervention against the threatened action of sealing of hospitals and to direct the Respondents to publish a reasonable timeframe within which the appropriate applications in pursuance of public notice can be made that was rejected by the Court on the ground that a common petition on behalf of many Petitioners cannot be considered.