The court said state governments can provide better hospitals, instead of allowing private hospitals operate from small residential buildings
A view of the Supreme Court of India. Credit: Reuters Photo
The Supreme Court on Monday expressed its annoyance over hospitals having inadequate safety equipment, saying those have become a money minting business, thriving on human distress, and it is better that those were closed.
The court said state governments can provide better hospitals, instead of allowing private hospitals operate from small residential buildings.
“Hospitals have become a large industry now, which is based on human distress and we cannot let them prosper at the cost of lives. Let such hospitals be closed,” a bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and M R Shah said.
The court pulled up the Gujarat government for extending the deadline for hospitals till June, 2022 in connection to building-use permissions. The top court told the state government to withdraw the notification that gives relaxation to hospitals.
The bench pointed out that one patient who had recovered from Covid and was to be released the next day, died due to fire, and also two nurses were burnt alive.
“These are human tragedies which have unfolded before our eyes. Then, we go on extending time for these hospitals,” the bench said.
“Hospitals have become a real estate industry, and instead of providing succour to patients in distress, it is widely felt that they have become money minting machines, which fleece patients,” the bench said.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta asked the court to visualise a situation where a 10-story building with four-five bedded hospital, which was required for Covid treatment, did not have building-use permission. If those hospitals were required to be closed, total 30,000 beds could become unavailable, he submitted.
The bench, however, said that there was no point in condoning lapses of these nursing homes which were not supposed to be those buildings in the first place.
“Let state provide those facilities and Covid care centres. We can’t have them in these small residential buildings,” the bench said, hearing a suo motu matter relating to fire tragedies in Covid-19 hospitals across the country following incidents in Rajkot and Ahmedabad.
Referring to a government notification on adherence to the norms till June 2022, the bench said, “Once a mandamus is there, it cannot be overridden by an executive notification like this. You now give a carte blanche and say hospitals don’t have to adhere till 2022 and people will continue dying and be burnt…”
The court also strongly condemned a report by a commission on the issue of fire safety in hospitals, which was filed in a sealed cover.
“What is this report in sealed cover by commission, etc? It is not a nuclear secret,” the bench said.
On December 20, 2020, the top court directed all state governments to carry out fire audit of each Covid Hospital in every district at least once in a month and inform the deficiency to the management of the hospital and report for taking follow-up action.