The Bombay High Court on Monday said if a COVID-19 patient dies in a state or civic-run hospital due to culpable negligence on part of the medical facility, then his/her family members would be entitled for compensation.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice N J Jamadar said the state government has a duty and responsibility towards its citizens.
The bench was hearing a public interest litigation filed by BJP leader Ashish Shelar, raising concerns over the manner in which hospitals run by government and civic bodies across Maharashtra were managing and disposing bodies of COVID-19 patients.
Shelar had in July filed an affidavit, pointing out 11 cases across the state where COVID-19 patients died in hospitals due to alleged negligence on part of hospital authorities.
The bench on Monday directed the Maharashtra government to get details on these 11 cases from the hospitals concerned and file its affidavit.
The court posted the plea for further hearing on November 23.
"The instances, if true, would suggest culpable negligence on part of those responsible for running the hospitals. The unfortunate victim's family members would be entitled to compensation," the court said in its order.
The bench also said even if the hospital concerned is run by a civic body, nothing prevents the state government from seeking details.
"Dont rely on the civic body. The state government has an overriding duty and responsibility. If someone dies in a train accident, then the victims family members are given compensation.
"Similarly, in these cases (deaths of COVID-19 patients due to negligence) too, the government should give compensation, Chief Justice Datta said.
The HC said in addition to guidelines prescribed by the Union government on March 15 on disposal and management of bodies of COVID-19 patients, the Maharashtra government shall also follow nine guidelines laid down by the Calcutta High Court last month.
The Calcutta HC had said bodies of COVID-19 patients where post-mortem is not required shall be handed over to relatives for completion of last rites following safety precautions.
In case there is nobody to claim a body, then it should be cremated or buried with dignity at the state governments expense, the Calcutta HC said.
It had also said that after completion of hospital formalities, a body should be secured in a body bag, the face-end of which should be preferably transparent and its exterior should be sanitised to minimise the risk of people carrying it getting infected.
The guidelines issued by the Calcutta HC further said that at the time of the last rites, religious rituals such as reading from religious scripts, sprinkling holy water, offering grains and so on, that do not require touching of the body, should be allowed.
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