SC directs states to constitute committee in each district for fire audit of COVID hospitals

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New Delhi, Dec 18 (PTI) The Supreme Court Friday directed all the states to constitute a committee in each district to conduct fire audit of COVID-19 hospitals at least once a month, inform the management of medical establishment about any deficiency and report to the government for taking follow up action.

A bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan said that COVID-19 hospitals, which have not obtained no objection certificate from the concerned fire department, should be asked to immediately apply for NOC and after carrying necessary inspection, decision shall be taken in this regard.

“Those COVID hospitals who have not renewed their NOC should immediately take steps for renewal on which appropriate inspection be taken and decision be taken. In event, COVID hospital is found not having NOC or not having obtained renewal, appropriate action be taken by the state,” said the bench, also comprising Justices R S Reddy and M R Shah.

The top court directed that all states and Union Territories should appoint one nodal officer for each COVID hospital, if not already appointed, who shall be made responsible for ensuring compliance of all fire safety measures.

“In each district, state government should constitute a committee to carry fire audit of each COVID hospital at least once in a month and inform the deficiency to the management of the hospital and report to the government for taking follow up action,” the bench said in its order.

The apex court had last month taken cognisance of the fire incident at a COVID hospital in Gujarat’s Rajkot in which five patients had died. It had also taken note of similar incidents which had happened earlier in other COVID hospitals.

The bench said in its order that Gujarat government has filed affidavit bringing on record the directions issued by the state and details of inspection undertaken and audit of few dedicated COVID hospitals.

“The State of Gujarat has also brought on record the notification appointing Justice D A Mehta to undertake enquiry with regard to fire in Shrey Hospital, Navrangpura, Ahmedabad, in addition to enquiry into the incident of fire in Uday Shivanand Hospital, Rajkot. The state to extend all co-operation to the enquiry commission so that enquiry report be submitted at early date and the appropriate remedial action be taken by the state,” the bench said.

Gujarat government had also informed the apex court that a nodal officer for fire safety has been appointed in dedicated COVID hospitals.

In its order, the bench noted that the Centre had issued advisory to all the states to prevent recurrence of fire incident in COVID hospitals and nursing homes.

“The Union of India has called for the status of implementation of guidelines issued in reference to preventing recurrence of fire accidents in hospitals, status of ‘no objection certificate’, report regarding inspection and re-inspection of hospitals and nursing homes,” the bench noted.

It said that different states and Union Territories have apprised it about the steps taken by them in compliance of the advisory.

The top court noted that the Centre has also directed the states and UTs to update their respective local building bye laws/fire services, synchronising them in line of ‘Model Bill on maintenance of fire and emergency service, 2019’, circulated by the Ministry of Home Affairs on September 16 last year.

The issue of Rajkot fire incident had cropped up in the top court which was hearing a suo motu case on proper treatment of COVID-19 patients and dignified handling of bodies in hospitals.

On December 9, the top court had sought 'detailed' response from the Centre as well as states on issues ranging from adhering to COVID-19 guidelines on wearing of face masks and social distancing norms to implementation of fire safety guidelines in hospitals and nursing homes across the country.

While taking cognisance of Rajkot fire incident, the apex court had pulled up the states for not taking any concrete action to mitigate the problem despite repeated instances. PTI ABA MNL SJK ABA RKS RKS