SC stops Ahmedabad hospitals from being shut down, seeks ‘workable solution’
The Supreme Court on Friday ordered Ahmedabad municipal corporation not to shut down hospitals in the city that do not have necessary clearances to ensure that their patients don’t suffer and asked the Gujarat government to come up with a “workable solution” within four weeks.
The interim direction by the top court, which struck a middle path between the need to protect the lives of patients in these hospitals and to comply with law, allows hospitals without no objection certificate (NOC) from fire department or building use certificate to continue for the time being.
But the judges made it clear that the hospitals will have to set their house in order. “Incidents of people dying in fire in hospitals is absolutely atrocious. We cannot permit hospitals or nursing homes to operate without clearance or certificates,” the bench of Justices Hemant Gupta and V Ramasubramanian said.
The municipal corporation’s crackdown on private hospitals came after eight people died in a fire at a private hospital in Ahmedabad in August 2020. A PIL was filed before the Gujarat High Court which brought to the fore how Shrey Hospital was allowed to function out of a residential building.
Solicitor general Tushar Mehta, who appeared for the Gujarat government, agreed that they needed to find a way. “It would be hazardous to give up on so many hospitals. We have to come up with a solution where law is complied with, and no harm is caused to people,” he said.
Tushar Mehta sought time to consult medical professionals and come out with a via media.
The order came as a reprieve for the hospitals served notices for closure by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation. The hospitals, under the banner Ahmedabad Medical Association (AMA), had challenged these notices before the Gujarat High Court which refused to come to their aid. However, the high court granted protection from any coercive action till June 17.
On February 22 this year, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation issued a public notice which made it mandatory for all commercial establishments to obtain building use permission under Gujarat Provincial Municipal Corporation Act and Fire NOC under Fire Safety Measures Act before occupying any premises. Three days were granted for establishments to comply or face sealing of their premises. Many hospitals approached the municipal authority but, in the meantime the corporation partially sealed many hospital premises.
Appearing for the association, senior advocate Maninder Singh told the Supreme Court that almost all hospitals under the Association had obtained fire department clearance. He proposed forming a committee that could help prepare documents considered necessary to obtain a building use certificate.