1,101 hospitals in Gujarat do not have valid fire safety certificates: Govt tells SC

Ahmedabad : As may as 1,101 hospitals in Gujarat still do not possess any valid fire safety certificates issued under the Gujarat Fire Prevention and Life Safety Measures Act, as per the affidavit submitted by the state government in the Supreme Court recently. The apex court is hearing a suo motu PIL (Public Interest Litigation) on the issue of proper treatment of COVID-19 patients and dignified handling of dead bodies, which will come up for hearing on Monday.

In the affidavit, Additional Chief Secretary, Urban Development and Urban Housing Department, Mukesh Puri said that as of date, there are 5,705 hospitals in Gujarat, of which 4,604 possess fire NOCs (No Objection Certificates) under the 2013 Act but 1,101 hospitals do not possess these NOCs. The NOC is issued by authorities concerned after applicant hospitals comply with fire safety measures.

Detailing the action taken, the government said authorities had issued show-cause notices to over 1,500 non-compliant hospitals, disconnected the water supply of 30 hospitals, partially sealed 185 hospital premises for want of fire safety certificates. These premises were reopened only after ensuring their due compliance, it said. As per the affidavit, only 47 hospitals are currently treating COVID-19 patients in Gujarat, and all of them possess the requisite fire NOCs. “Though the Hon”ble Court vide its order dated December 18, 2020, had issued directions in the context of COVID hospitals, as on date, there are 5,705 hospitals in the state, of which 4,604 are possessing fire NOC under the 2013 Act,” the affidavit said, adding fire safety certificates to more than 2,500 hospitals have been issued or renewed since December 2020. As of January 15, 2021, there were 328 dedicated COVID hospitals in Gujarat, of which 261 were found to possess valid fire NOCs. As on date, out of these 328 hospitals, 298 have valid fire NOCs. For the remaining 30 hospitals, show-cause notices were issued, the affidavit said.

The government also said that “due to measures like mock drills, an inspection of hospital premises by fire officers, training etc., “nine incidents of fire were controlled and (fire) extinguished at the incipient stage preventing the loss of property and lives during the peak of second COVID wave in Gujarat”. Two of these fires were reported in Ahmedabad on May 7 and May 17, two in Surat on April 25 and May 10, two in Rajkot on May 7 and May 20, two in Jamnagar on May 14 and May 18, and one in Bhavnagar on May 12, it said. The state government has also submitted before the Supreme Court a copy of a report by the Commission of Inquiry headed by Justice DA Mehta (retired) on the fire at Shrey Hospital in Ahmedabad and Uday Shivanand Hospital in Rajkot and mentioned the steps taken by the state government, in a sealed cover, the government said.

At Shrey Hospital, eight COVID-19 patients were killed in a fire on August 6, 2020. A fire at Uday Shivanand Hospital killed five COVID-19 patients on November 27 last year. In Bharuch, 18 people, including 16 patients died in a fire that occurred at a COVID-19 hospital on May 1 this year. The Gujarat government has also clarified a notification issued by it on July 8, 2021. The notification directed that no coercive action should be taken against the buildings having no Building Use (BU) permission till three months from December 31, 2021, which is the last date of applicability of the Gujarat Epidemic Diseases COVID-19 Regulation, 2020. The government said this notification didn”t mean any relaxation in the issuance of a fire safety certificate and the statutory compliance with the fire safety norms under the Fire Safety Act, 2013.

The top court in the order dated June 19 had asked the Gujarat government to clarify whether its notification granting BU relaxation is in breach of the directions issued by the court. “While a fire safety certificate is one of the necessary prerequisites for grant of BU permission, there is no requirement of BU permission for granting the fire safety certificate. Relaxation with regard to extension of time for obtaining BU Permission does not permit any relaxation in the requirement for issuance of fire safety certificate,” the government had stated, adding that authorities have been empowered to initiate all actions, including coercive actions, in case of non-compliance. “This notification of 8.07.2021 does not, in any manner whatsoever, restrict the powers vested under Fire Prevention Act, 2013, nor does it grant any extended timeline, to any hospital for obtaining a Fire NOC,” the affidavit said.

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