The Supreme Court on Monday directed the Gujarat Government to submit the long-delayed compliance report regarding the Fire Safety measurements taken at COVID-19 hospitals in the state, after the Rajkot Hospital Fire incident of 2020.
“Prima facie it appears that the notification issued is in the breach of directions issued by this court,” the bench of Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice MR Shah observed, while hearing the petition regarding non-compliance of fire safety measures at Covid-19 hospitals in Gujarat after the state government’s notification, which stayed the process and also allowed the hospitals to open without having NOC and proper fire safety standards.
The bench directed the Gujarat government to place on record the said notification, call the copy of report regarding compliance to prevent the recurrence of fire incidents in COVID hospitals and nursing homes, the status of NOC for Hospitals in Gujarat regarding Fire Safety, as well as the report of inquiry undertaken by a committee headed by Justice D.A. Mehta, with regard to the fire incident in Shrey Hospital, Ahmedabad and Uday Shivanand Hospital, Rajkot.
The Bench further ordered the state to file a report, indicating the audit pertaining names of hospitals that have not complied yet with fire safety standards within the state.
Earlier, the Supreme Court bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy and M. R. Shah had taken suo motu cognisance of fire safety measures in Covid hospitals, after a fire broke out in a Covid hospital in Rajkot, Gujarat and on December 18, 2020, directed the state of Gujarat to file the report of the inquiry into the fire incidents in COVID-19 hospitals, along with directions to all states/ union territories to appoint a nodal officer to comply with fire safety, fire audit of each COVID facility at least once a month to inform the deficiency to the management of COVID hospitals, who have not obtained NOC from the fire department to apply for the same immediately.
However, the state government released a notification against the order of the Supreme Court, stating “The buildings that do not have valid building use permission or in breach of building use permission or have violated development control regulations such as change of use, margin, height restrictions etc. The owners/ occupiers of such buildings shall immediately take coercive measures to comply with the development control regulations within a period starting from today till three months from the last date of applicability of the Gujarat Epidemic Diseases, COVID-19 Regulations, 2020.”
“No coercive action shall be taken against such buildings for breach of development control regulations from today till 3 months from the last day of applicability of the Gujarat Epidemic Diseases, COVID-19 Regulations, 2020,” the notification further stated.
The bench, after a request from Senior Advocate Maninder Singh (for state of Gujarat) and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, observed “There is no point of condoning the delay in these facilities by any notification, it’s better these hospitals are closed and additional facilities are created by the state, we can’t have these residential property be kept for COVID purpose…. 40 people died, the same thing happened in Maharashtra as well…This is a human tragedy.”
The Court granted two weeks’ time to the state government to comply with the directions.