19 July 2021 1:55 PM GMT
While confronting the State of Gujarat on its decision to issue notification extending the timeline for hospitals to rectify compliances, Supreme Court has on Monday decided to consider if the notification was in breach of its order dated December 18 issued regarding maintenance and audit of fire safety measures in hospitals."Once there is a mandamus of the Court, it is very well settled...
While confronting the State of Gujarat on its decision to issue notification extending the timeline for hospitals to rectify compliances, Supreme Court has on Monday decided to consider if the notification was in breach of its order dated December 18 issued regarding maintenance and audit of fire safety measures in hospitals.
"Once there is a mandamus of the Court, it is very well settled this cannot be overridden, and less so by an executive notification. Where the Court has issued a direction, and the basis of that direction is taken away by the different legislature that is validating legislation. You can't by an executive notification nullify a direction of Supreme Court like this," Justice Chandrachud said.
"The 18th December order gave a direction of taking, and you now give a carte blanche and say that these hospitals will not have to comply." He added.
A Division Bench Of Justice Chandrachud and Justice MR Shah was hearing its suo moto case regarding the incident in Rajkot, Gujarat on 26.11.2020, resulting in the death of Covid patients in the Covid Hospital.
The Bench observed that "During the course of the hearing, it has transpired that on July 8, 2021, a notification has been issued by State Government by which an extended timeline has been issued for rectifying compliances for a period of 3 months commencing from the last date of the applicability of the Gujarat Epidemic Regulations 2020. The Court has been informed that the last date being March 31, 2022, the extended period of three months would commence thereafter. The Bench has therefore sought an explanation from the State of Gujarat on this aspect through an affidavit."
The Bench has also sought to ask the State to produce a copy of the report of the Commission of Enquiry headed by Justice Mehta, along with the action that has been taken State regarding recommendations contained in the report.
The Bench recorded that "Prima facie it would appear that the notification has been issued in breach of the direction issued by this Court. Before we consider the matter at length any further, we are of the view that this aspect should be explained on affidavit by State in a week."
At this juncture, Senior Advocate Maninder Singh asked the Court to consider not recording that the State has prima facie not complied with the order, as he will be able to satisfy the Court in two weeks that the same is not the case.
Considering Mr. Singh's submissions, Justice Chandrachud stated that "We will correct the order, we will say that we will consider if it is in breach of the order or not. So we get your point."
The Bench further added that "We are not passing any final order. We just want this to be produced before us and your explanation."
The Bench has also directed the State of Gujarat to file a comprehensive statement indicating the audits that were conducted in pursuance of the order dated December 18t, 2020, the result of the order specified in terms of which hospitals were found to not comply with fire safety and other forms under the Development Control Regulations.
"We had to pay 17 lakhs to save my brother. What happens to the common man? There is no cap on these hospitals. There are no cap on these hospitals, and there is no botheration by State authorities. I appeal to Mr. Mehta as I know he can get effective measures in this regard." Sr Adv Dushyant Dave said
Justice Shah said that while 40 hospitals in Gujarat were held liable, he has learned through newspapers that notification has been issued by the State for no action to be taken to violate building permission. He noted,
"How can it be done? Any such notification is against our order! On 18/12/ 2020, we passed these orders."
"Once there is a direction by this Court to take action against hospitals who are not in compliance with building bye-laws, we will not allow you to now say that you will give them Time till 2022. This is unacceptable, " the Bench said.
Through the December 18, 2020 order being referred to by the Court, three specific directions were issued last year regarding maintenance and audit of fire safety measures in hospitals :
a. All States/UTs were directed to appoint one nodal officer for each covid hospital, to be made responsible for ensuring the compliance of all fire safety measures.
b. In each district, State Government was to constitute a committee to carry out a fire audit atleast once a month and inform the deficiency to management of the hospital and report to the Government for taking follow-up action.
c. The Covid hospital that had not obtained NOC from the fire department was immediately required to apply for NOC. In the event Covid Hospital was found not having NOC or not having obtained renewal; appropriate action was to be taken by the State