Gujarat High Court
Gujarat High Court
Litigation News

Become Carpathia amid Titanic-like tragedy of COVID-19: Gujarat HC directs control of Private hospital fee, aid for migrant travel and more

The Court recounted that in 1912 it was "the Carpathia", a ship 94 kilometres away, that chose to turn around, sail full stream in the opposite direction to come to the rescue of 750 people aboard the sinking Titanic.

Shruti Mahajan

The Gujarat High Court in its recent order drew a parallel between the tragedy of the Titanic and the COVID-19 pandemic and said in these difficult times, people should be like "Carpathia", the ship that rescued 750 passengers of the Titanic.

On the night of April 15, 1912 when the Titanic struck an iceberg during its first voyage, there were three other ships in its periphery that were sent out distress calls. One to "The Sampson" which was closest to the sinking ship at 11 kilometres away, another to "SS Californian", and third to "The Carpathia", farthest from the Titanic.

The Sampsons, involved in illegal hunting of seals and scared of being caught, sailed in the opposite direction instead of coming to the rescue and this represents the egocentric people, the High Court said - "People who are so self absorbed that they are unable to see past their own gains and comforts". These people choose to ignore the pain and suffering of the others.

The SS Californian, which was surrounded by ice on all sides, decided to wait till the morning to respond to the distress signal given that the weather conditions were not favourable. This ship dismissed Titanic's urgency and chose to wait till the time was favourable to extend help. According to the High Court, this is a metaphor for people who believe their hands are tied and cannot do anything.

However, it was "the Carpathia" that, despite being 94 kilometres away, chose to turn around, sail full stream in the opposite direction and come to the rescue of the sinking ship.

"It is paramount that in these unprecedented times of chaos, uncertainty and extreme stress we come together as a community to help the most vulnerable. If we wait like the 'Californian' for the “right time' we will keep waiting all our lives. We can find hundreds and thousands of reasons and excuses to run way from our responsibilities to help our neighbours. But whoever can find it in their hearts to rise above all these frivolous excuses will always be remembered fondly in history", the Bench of Justices JB Pardiwala and Ilesh J Vora said.

The High Court was passing its order in a suo moto matter concerning the various issues emerging from the pandemic including those concerning medical and health facilities, migrant workers, and prisoners. Drawing the analogy with the tragic story of the Titanic, the High Court further added,

"The tragic saga of the Titanic teaches us that our fate is uncertain, governed by the powerful forces of nature. The crashing of the Titanic was inevitable, but (what) was evitable was the loss of the human lives. It is believed that if the other two ships had responded in time, all people on board the Titanic could have been saved. We face a similar tragedy today, in the form of a global pandemic caused by a contagious virus we barely have any power over. What we do have power over is ourselves... We all should become the 'Carpathia.'"
Gujarat High Court

Having said that, the High Court issued a slew of directions to the State.

On Private and Corporate Hospitals

The Court directed the State to initiate appropriate legal action against those private hospitals that are unwilling to honour the understanding arrived at as regards COVID-19 treatment and price control of the same. The persons responsible in such hospitals for the same should be prosecuted under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code Sections 57 and 58 respectively of the Disaster Management Act.

Many reputed private multispeciality hospitals have not featured in the list of hospitals giving COVID-19 treatment and the High Court has directed the State to initiate talks with these hospitals in this regard.

"The State Government is directed to issue a Notification making it mandatory for all the multi­speciality private / corporate hospitals in the city of Ahmedabad and on the outskirts to reserve 50% of their beds (or such other capacity, as the State Government may deem fit and proper on the basis of the increase in the number of cases). This should include all categories of beds to treat the COVID­19 patients with specific guidelines and SOPs which the State Government may deem fit," the Court adds.

The Court has also directed the State to consider extending the Ayushman Bharat scheme to the State to include private hospitals and has further sought to know the manner in which rates have been worked out with private hospitals.

On the condition in City Civil Hospital in Ahmedabad

Noting the grim situation in and the bad shape of the City Civil Hospital in Ahmedabad, the Court said it wonders how many times the Health Minister of the State visited the Hospital and whether the Minister has any idea about the problems faced by the patients.

"How many times the Health Minister has interacted with the Medical Officers and other staff members in person so as to understand their difficulties and problems?...Is the State Government aware of the hard fact that the patients at the Civil Hospital are dying because of lack of adequate number of ventilators? How does the State Government propose to tackle this problem of ventilators?"
Gujarat High Court

The Court has said:

  • The doctors not performing in thus hospital should be transferred to other districts.

  • Working conditions of resident doctors should be improved.

  • Accountabilty to be fixed on senior doctors who failed in their duty to improve facilities

  • Number of oxygen beds and ventilators to be increased

  • Punitive action to be taken against irresponsible ward boys

  • The Class III & IV Union should be dealt with strictly.

On improvement of medical and healthcare facilities

The Court has also proposed to issue certain directions to expand the healthcare facilities to ensure that maximum facilities for COVID-19 treatment are available. These include:

  • Stationing of one ambulance outside every quarantine facility;

  • Expression of interest be called from physicians willing to render services in wards in hospitals as well as in quarantine facilities;

  • Gujarat should adopt policy used by Maharashtra to direct all general physicians to run their own clinic or serve in hospital wards;

  • Private hospitals not to demand fees in advance;

  • State to procure maximum number of testing kits;

  • COVID Care Centre A (CCC A) – This is required to quarantine high risk suspects who cannot maintain social distancing at home;

  • COVID Care Centre B (CCC B) – Here asymptomatic positive cases and cases with mild symptoms should be admitted;

  • Day and night, regular ambulances and ICU on wheels must be made available in adequate numbers for quick and safe transfer. Same will apply to the dead body vans;

  • The Government is directed to raise a computarised COVID Control Center at a place convenient to it. It must have complete real – time information of each facility;

  • No patient should be made to run from one hospital to the other begging for admission;

  • A website Control Centre should be created for everyone to know about various actions that may be taken;

  • CCC A and CCC B may be kept under treatment of required number of medical officers but supervised by a competent Physician;

  • Treatment protocol, evolved by the local specialists based on the guidelines from the center and ICMR, local conditions and available resources and past experiences must be followed in all facilities;

  • A representative of Government must be available at each center for coordination;

  • The present Head of each of these Government hospitals will be responsible for his hospital turned into COVID facility;

  • All the Government hospitals with more than 50 beds and ICU need to be immediately converted into DCHC and DCH;

  • Excess staff from one hospital may be transferred to the other required by the Control Centre;

  • The Government should provide high quality N95 mask, sanitizer, sterile and non sterile gloves, PPE kits, ventury and high flow oxygen mask, ventilator tubings, filters and similar items to all the COVID facilities at its own expense;

  • All the healthcare workers must be tested at regular intervals as deemed fit by the experts. The society is safe only if they are safe.

On the issue of labour and migrant workers:

The Court has directed the Railway authorities to waive off one-way charges levied on the migrant workers for returning to their native place. As an alternative the Court has asked the State to bear these costs.

"We may only observe that the work relating to the migrant workers should continue with all its vigour. The State Government shall ensure that the migrant workers do not have to face further difficulties for the purpose of travelling to their native. The work in this regard shall continue in the right direction."
Gujarat High Court

On prisoners and extension of bail

The Court has directed that all those accused who have been released on temporary bail upon recommendations of the High Power Committee shall continue to remain on bail for a further period of forty five days.

Read the Order:

Gujarat HC order.pdf
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