Don’t want hospitals to become potential lakshagrihas, says Bombay HC
The Bombay high court (HC) on Thursday chided the state government and civic authorities over the recent fire incidents in hospitals and said that compliances should be undertaken in an expeditious manner. HC said that it did not want hospitals to turn into potential “lakshagriha (house of lacquer)” of the epic Mahabharata and that the safety of patients was of paramount importance.
“We do not want these hospitals to be potential jatugriha [lakshagriha]. These hospitals [which met with fire incidents] are all jatugrihas. This is not the way people should lose their lives,” HC observed.
In Mahabharata, the jatugriha (Lakshagrih) was a house made of wax, through which Kauravas attempted to eliminate Pandavas during their exile period.
HC took a serious cognisance of the various fire incidents and accidents that took place in the past month across Maharashtra, including the recent one at Mumbra in Thane district where at least four patients admitted in the intensive care unit of a private hospital died after a major fire broke out on Wednesday.
The court, while hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) alleging improper Covid-19 management in the state, asked advocate general of Maharashtra if the government can consider a total lockdown like last year for 15 days to contain the virus spread and if citizens could be indoors unless the absolute need to go out.
A division bench of chief justice Dipankar Datta and justice Girish Kulkarni, while hearing a PIL filed by lawyer Sneha Marjadi alleging mismanagement in treatment during the second wave of Covid-19 in Maharashtra, sought directions pertaining to shortage of Remdesivir and oxygen supply among other prayers.
Hinting that it would be constrained to widen the scope of the PIL, the bench said, “You [civic authorities] have to conduct a fire audit of all hospitals and seek compliance earliest. If patients are being admitted in hospitals, their lives should be saved there.”
Questioning how permissions were granted to hospitals which compromised with stipulated norms, the court held that wherever there are indoor patients, their safety is of paramount importance.
The bench noted that the patients were already going through agony and pain when hospitalised, without checking on whether the hospital is safe or not.
“We understand these are special times and everything is put to test. We have to leave our work aside and look into basic compliances. We do not want any fire incidents now.”
Appearing on behalf of BMC, senior advocate Anil Sakhare informed the court that the civic authority had already initiated action pertaining to fire audit and compliances and would be in a position to give data and respond to the queries of the court in the next hearing.
While referring to the Nagpur incident, wherein an octogenarian offered his hospital bed to a younger man saying that he had lived his life and the young man needed to live, chief justice Datta said, “We salute the senior citizen for his sacrifice. If the authorities had woken up earlier, both lives could have been saved.”
The bench did not mince words when it came to the citizens flouting safety norms while the Covid-19 restrictions were in place and said that the authorities could not always be blamed for the situation and referred to the incident wherein a district magistrate had to stop a marriage.
“We do not appreciate the way in which the DM conducted himself but the fact remains that the citizens are not abiding and hence such action was necessitated,” said the bench adding that such an approach by the citizens contributed to the further spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“If we as citizens fail, what is going to happen? You want to have marriages, festivals etc without following norms? Are we waiting for the third wave? First we do not care about basic things [protocols] and then we hunt for oxygen and medicines. This is the current state,” noted chief justice Datta.
Thereafter, the bench asked advocate general Ashutosh Kumbhakoni to “advise” the government to consider at least a 15-day total lockdown.
“We are not passing any mandamus, but please advise the government. At least for 15 days, if people stay indoors unless there is absolute need to come out, we may expect better results,” said the bench.
The court while asking the government to ensure Remdesivir injections were sufficiently supplied to private hospitals, sought responses from the authorities and posted further hearing to May 4.