The Supreme Court on Wednesday 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.
The top court was hearing a suo motu case registered by it to ensure proper treatment of COVID-19 patients in hospitals and dignified handling of dead bodies there.
Recently, it also took cognisance of the fire incident in a designated COVID-19 hospital in Gujarat’s Rajkot in which several patients had died, raising the issue of lack of proper fire safety measures in hospitals across the country.
A bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre and the Gujarat government, to file detailed affidavits within three days on the issues such as enforcing of COVID-19 guidelines and fire safety measures in hospitals and nursing homes.
The bench, also comprising Justices RS Reddy and MR Shah, directed the states as well to file affidavits by Friday on steps taken on these issues and fixed the case for hearing on December 14.
Tushar Mehta, the Solicitor General submits that with regard to Fire Safety Audit, a direction has been issued to all the states to constitute an appropriate Committee and compilation of all data is in process and shall be filed along with an affidavit within a period of three days from today, the bench noted in its order.
The top court said the Gujarat government may issue appropriate notification to ensure that the Enquiry Committee chaired by Justice DA Mehta, which is probing the fire at the Covid Hospital in Rajkot, is also empowered to inquire into the other fire incident which had happened at Shreyas Hospital of Ahmedabad.
Tushar Mehta had said that the same panel may also look into the both fire tragedies so that an early report may be submitted and appropriate measures may be taken with regard to hospitals where fire broke resulting in the death of several patients.
He said the Centre has asked all the states and Union Territories (UTs) to send status report on the implementation of fire safety guidelines to prevent recurrence of fire incidents in hospitals and nursing homes.
A detailed report on fire safety would be prepared after getting the inputs from states, he said.
The bench then asked about the fire safety audit of Gujarat and hospitals there and said as to how many nodal officers have been appointed.
It then enquired about the steps taken to enforce the COVID-19 guidelines on wearing of face masks in public and adhering to the social distancing norms.
“You file a detailed affidavit giving all steps taken,” it said.
Earlier, the top court had said that people are violating with impunity the COVID-19 guidelines on wearing face masks at public places and are not adhering to social distancing norms.
It had pulled up the authorities for not ensuring strict compliance of these measures to contain coronavirus and had asked the Centre and states to give suggestions so that appropriate directions can be issued to implement these guidelines.
The top court had however stayed the Gujarat High Court direction to send people caught without wearing masks to do community service at the COVID-19 patient care facilities.
It had taken note of the submissions of the Gujarat government that the order was harsh, having serious repercussions on health of the violators.
The top court had asked the Gujarat government to strictly enforce the COVID-19 guidelines.
The Supreme Court had also expressed concern over the spurt in the number of COVID-19 cases across the country.
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