The Bombay High Court on 5th October 2020 directed the State government to file an affidavit containing the details of deaths that have occurred due to the mismanagement of dead bodies in State and Municipal hospitals. The court further stated that if the allegations of culpable negligence are proven against the State and Municipal hospitals then the families of such deceased persons will be entitled to compensation.
The Bench comprised of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice NJ Jamdar who heard the Public Interest Litigation filed by the Bhartiya Janta Party leader Ashish Shelar and questioned about the manner in which the dead bodies of the infected person were being handled allegedly resulted in 11 deaths.
In the beginning, the Court noted that “The larger issue raised in this PIL petition was with respect to proper management of dead bodies of the COVID victims which is also pending for adjudication before the Apex Court. We are inclined to keep the issue suspended awaiting the decision of the Supreme Court.”
However, until final directions are dispensed by the Apex Court the High Court has stated to follow the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India on 15th March 2020 regarding the dead body management with reference to the Covid-19 patients and follow the additional guidelines as laid down by the Division Bench of the Calcutta High Court in case of Vineet Ruja v. Principal Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of West Bengal and Ors.
The court clarified that this order will, however, not preclude the petitioner from also suggesting any further measure that could be adopted by the State government for better management of the dead bodies of the infected patients. The bench asked the petitioner to share the suggestions with AGP Kedar Dighe.
Referring to the additional affidavit filed by the petitioner dated 10th July 2020 the Court has marked the instances of 11 deaths of patients in the State-run or Municipal Hospitals as cited by the petitioner amid this duration. The petitioner contended that these were some of the instances of the culpable negligence on the part of those responsible for running the hospitals.
The Court further stated, “We had pointed out to Mr. Dighe on the last occasion that if the instances referred to by the petitioner were true and the State accepts the allegations of the petitioner that there has been culpable negligence, the unfortunate victim’s family members should be entitled to compensation.” The AGP Dighe also pointed out that a PIL petition had been filed in the Aurangabad Bench of the Bombay High Court and the Court may exercise restraint with respect to this pendency of this PIL.
The Court said, “Particulars regarding the PIL petition, said to be pending before the Aurangabad Bench are not before use. We accordingly call upon the State to file an additional counter-affidavit and provide particulars of the prayers made and the status of such proceedings. In addition, the State shall deal with each of the 10 instances referred by the petitioner in the aforesaid affidavit. We make it clear that even if all the hospitals where the unfortunate deaths have occurred are not run by the State, nothing would prevent the State from accessing information from the authority in charge of administration thereof and placing on record all relevant factual details and particulars. Let such an affidavit be filed by 4th November 2020 to which the reply can be filed by 23rd November 2020.”
Thus, the next hearing of the respective case is scheduled on 23rd November 2020.