VIJAYAWADA: The Andhra Pradesh High Court on Tuesday issued interim orders staying proceedings against the managing director (MD) of Ramesh Cardiac and Multispeciality Hospitals Dr Ramesh Babu and non-executive chairman Sitarama Mohan Rao in the case registered by the Governorpet police over the Swarna Palace hotel fire mishap that claimed 10 lives.
Dr Ramesh Babu and Mohan Rao filed a petition in the court seeking a stay on their arrest and quashing the case registered by the Vijayawada city police against the hospital management.
Hearing the petition, Justice D Ramesh asked why the district Collector, Sub-Collector and District Medical and Health Officer (DM&HO), who permitted Ramesh Hospitals to run the Covid Care Centre (CCC) from Swarna Palace, were not named as the accused in the case.
Justice Ramesh said the investigation in the case should not proceed till these officials are named as accused persons.
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Stating that the negligence of the administration is evident, the court asked the public prosecutor how the sub-collector earlier allowed a quarantine centre to be run at Swarna Palace by the Airports Authority.
The quarantine centres were set up as per a government order, and this fact should not be ignored, Justice D Ramesh observed.The petitioners’ counsel D Srinivas told the court the DM&HO gave permission to run the CCC after confirming that the hotel had the basic infrastructure.
Bail plea of 3 hospital staff dismissed
He said the police booked the hospital management under Section 304 (part-II) and 308, holding it responsible for the deaths, when it could only be charged under Section 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder).Srinivas further told the court Swarna Palace had been running since 1991, and even the Airports Authority used as a quarantine centre. Asserting that the mishap did not take place because of the hospital management’s negligence, Srinivas said the petitioners were not aware that the hotel didn’t have a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the fire services department.
Public prosecutor Srinivas Reddy told the court the Ramesh Hospitals management did not take any precautions at the CCC, leading to 10 people dying and several being injured.
He added that Swarna Palace did not have NOCs from several departments or even an occupancy certificate from the department concerned, and alleged that despite knowing this, the hospital management entered into an agreement to operate the CCC.
He further said that though the Airports Authority was permitted to run a quarantine centre, no one was treated at the hotel.
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Urging the court not to pass interim orders, Srinivas Reddy said a thorough investigation into the mishap is needed, and the petitioners should be questioned. Justice Ramesh, however, issued interim orders staying proceedings against the petitioners, and said final orders will be given at a later stage.
Meanwhile, Fifth Additional Metropolitan Sessions Judge, Vijayawada, rejected the bail petition moved by Dr Kodali Rajagopala Rao, the chief operating officer, Dr Kurapati Sudarshan, the general manager (admin), and Pallapothu Venkatesh, the public relations officer – all employees of Dr Ramesh Cardiac and Multispeciality Hospital on Tuesday.
Dismissing the bail petitions, Judge V Srinivasa Anjaneya Murthy said the hospital management, when entering into an MoU with the hotel management, should have verified whether permissions were obtained from the departments concerned, and checked whether fire extinguishers were available at the hotel. “The hospital management… should have knowledge about the requirements and permissions for the building in which it wants to start the CCC, and it cannot be said that trusting and placing confidence in the hotel management, the hospital authorities… entered into the MoU,” the judge observed.
Further, the judge observed that simply because the DMHO gave permission to start the CCC, the petitioners cannot escape their responsibility to take precautions to prevent fire mishaps because for reasons best known to the DMHO, Krishna, the alleged permissions might have been granted though requisite documents were not submitted for which the government will initiate necessary departmental action against the DMHO.
“Hence, granting permission to run the CCC cannot be taken as an advantage by the petitioners in saying they are under the impression that the hotel management has taken all the precautions,” the judge observed. It is the responsibility of the petitioners and hospital management to enquire about the fire safety measures before entering into the MoU, the judge observed.
The judge further said the petitioners and directors of the hospital are not laymen but were running Ramesh Hospitals for several years, and cannot plead ignorance about their role in running the CCC.
As the investigation is still underway and the other prime accused are yet to be arrested, the petitioners, if granted bail, may tamper with evidence and interfere with the investigation, the judge observed and dismissed the bail pleas.