Gujarat government’s move to ease hospital building safety rules amid Covid was sharply criticized today by the Supreme Court, which put the order on hold and said: “To save lives in the pandemic we are killing people with fire.”
A Gujarat order on July 8 had said no action would be taken against buildings without “Building Use Permission” till March next year.
The Gujarat government had clarified that this notification didn’t mean that rules for fire safety clearance had been relaxed.
“The Gujarat government notification goes against public health and safety. In the effort to save people in pandemic we are killing people by fire,” the Supreme Court said.
The court was hearing a case related to fires in hospitals where Covid patients were treated.
In November last, six people died at Rajkot’s Uday Shivanand Hospital. The police said the fire started in the ICU; investigations pointed at hospital negligence, PTI reported.
In May, 18 people died in another hospital fire, in Bharuch.
Justice MR Shah told the Gujarat government lawyer: “Have you seen the condition of ICUs? 7-8 beds in small rooms. We are not passing any orders on ICUs because this is an emergency situation we are in. But if you were to go by ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) rules then 80 per cent of the ICUs would have to shut down.”
The Supreme Court was furious at the state for trying to relax safety rules for hospital buildings despite these incidents.
“There are hospitals that have been running for over 30 years without requisite permissions and safety measures. We are constantly only exempting developers who are violating laws, that is all we are doing in this country,” the judges said.
Justice DY Chandrachud stressed that the government could not allow such illegal buildings.
“If the government allows such illegal buildings to function then it’s going to be very unsafe. You can’t have nursing homes that have five floors and no lifts. Or no proper exits. We will be permitting dangerous establishments to continue if we keep giving liberties like this,” said Justice Chandrachud.
“By granting exemption and stays we are conniving if we do this. We can’t cure all ills in Indian society but we must do what we can as judges to uphold the rule of law,” he added.