| Mumbai |
October 5, 2020 2:54:12 pm
The Bombay High Court on Monday observed that the state was bound to compensate the family of the victims for alleged culpable negligence by the state government and civic hospitals.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice N J Jamadar made the suggestion while hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) by BJP MLA Ashish Shelar over disposal of bodies of Covid-19 victims, with reference to an incident at Sion hospital in which bodies were lying on beds or on the ground, in close proximity to patients being treated for Covid-19.
In the PIL, he pointed out 11 incidents of negligence by the hospitals.
Expressing serious concern, the HC widened the scope of the PIL and asked the BMC to respond to the inquiry into the incident and asked state authorities to give details of how bodies of Covid-19 victims are disposed of.
During the last hearing on September 28, the HC referred to written submissions made by Shelar alleging state-wide negligence and to an affidavit filed by the state health department, and pointed out the Jalgaon incident.
The Court had then pulled up the Maharashtra government and asked why it could not compensate the family of an 82-year-old who went missing from a Covid-19 ward at Jalgaon Civil Hospital on June 2 and, eight days later, was found dead in the toilet of the hospital.
On Monday, state government lawyer advocate Kedar Dighe submitted that the Aurangabad bench of the High Court was seized with PIL seeking compensation in the Jalgaon incident and the same is pending before it.
When the bench inquired about the eleven instances of patients dying due to alleged negligence of those running the hospital, Dighe submitted that all instances do not belong to the BMC-run hospitals but, in some cases, state-run hospitals would be responsible and in some, civic authorities beyond Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) would be liable.
The court said that the larger issue regarding management of Covid affected patients is pending before the Supreme Court and it would await the apex court’s decision before deciding over it.
However, referring to alleged instances of negligence as cited in PIL, the bench said, “We thought at least for these instances in which people have died due to negligence, some mechanism be devised by the state. It is the state’s responsibility. We are just awakening it.”
It added, “The instances, if true, would suggest culpable negligence on the part of those running hospitals. The unfortunate victim’s family will be entitled for compensation.”
The court said that since the issue pertaining to the Jalgaon incident was pending before the Aurangabad bench, it would restrain from passing orders on it.
The bench asked the state government to file a detailed additional affidavit dealing with each of 11 incidents cited by petitioner and elaborate the steps taken and clarify its stand on the issue of compensation for families affected in these instances.
Moreover, senior counsel Rajendra Pai representing Shelar said that it was unclear that which guidelines Maharashtra government was adopting for management of dead bodies and the same should be clarified and publicised. The accountability of state machinery and deterrence is the basic foundation of this PIL, he said.
The court then suggested the state government to adopt dead body management guidelines of the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and those ordered by the Calcutta High Court in its September 16 order.
Seeking detailed affidavit from the state on 11 incidents of alleged negligence by November 4, the court also asked the petitioner to provide suggestions on disposal of bodies thereafter and posted the hearing on PIL to November 23.
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