The Aurangabad Bench of the Bombay High Court on Wednesday directed the Maharashtra government to pay a compensation of Rs. 50 lakh to the legal heirs of 82-year-old Malati Nehete, a Covid-19 patient who had gone missing from the ward for the Covid-19 patients of the Government Medical College (GMC) and hospital at Jalgaon on June 2’ 2020, and was found dead in one of the five toilets attached to the ward eight days later.
The bench of Justice SV Gangapurwala and Justice Shrikant Kulkarni was irked to note that for about eight days, the woman was missing and no one took any serious action regarding the same except for filing a missing report.
“It is evident that neither doctors on duty nor staff nurses were monitoring the patient. Having regard to the above factual scenario, we have no hesitation to hold that it is because of culpable negligence of doctors, staff nurses and para-medical staff on duty, patient Malati Nehate met with her unfortunate death.”
A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed by Pratibha Shinde, president of Lok Sangharsh Morcha, and two other persons, highlighting the apathetic approach of doctors and para-medical staff at GMC at Jalgaon, in treating the Covid-19 patients. They contended that apart from the lack of adequate doctors, the authorities at the hospital had turned a blind eye towards the guidelines and protocols issued by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
The senior Advocate, Gayatri Singh, highlighted the case of Malati Nehete, who was shifted to the government medical college from Railway Hospital in Bhusawal on June 1’2020. The swab test for covid-19 was conducted for her later, but initially, she was admitted to the non-covid19 ward. The 82-year-old, who required support for all her movements, was shifted to the covid-19 ward after her rest report showed her positive for covid-19.
The prayer for a compensation of Rs. 50 lakhs was opposed by the additional government pleader, PS Patil on the grounds that the family members of the petitioner-1 were well-educated to avail an appropriate legal remedy.
The objection was, however, overruled by the bench and the court said,
“The High Court, being the protector of civil liberties of citizens, has not only the power and jurisdiction but also an obligation to grant relief to the victims or heirs of the victim whose fundamental rights are flagrantly infringed and call upon the state to repair the damage, irrespective of individual remedy available to them.”
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