Shrey Hospital Fire: Victims’ Families Move Court Demanding CBI Inquiry
Even as the DA Mehta Inquiry Commission report was tabled in the Gujarat Assembly, families of three of the eight people killed in the fire that broke out in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of Shrey Hospital in Ahmedabad on the night of August 6, 2020, have moved court demanding that investigation be transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The patients were all recovering from Covid and died when the fir broke out around 3 A.M, allegedly due to a short circuit.
Concerns have been raised about the alleged absence of fire-fighting equipment, missing CCTV footage and there are even allegations that no doctors or medical care personnel were present in the ICU at the time of the incident. But the most curious element remains that matter of the missing mobile phones of the victims.
Now, the families of three victims have moved a petition before the Gujarat High Court saying that Ahmedabad Police have failed to investigate crucial pieces of evidence and therefore the probe needs to be moved out of their hands and given to an independent investigative agency.
One of the main points raised pertains to mobile phones. The petition says, “The fact remains that the mobile phones of a few victims were in working condition even the day after the fire because the staff of the hospital were more interested in stealing belongings of the patients rather than saving them. The police did not even try to ascertain the mobile locations and call details despite several representations made by the family members of the deceased.”
The petitioners also alleged that the mobile phones may have been taken away much before the fire broke out so that patients could not inform their families about it. It is also alleged that a particular medicine was administered to that rendered the unconscious, thereby making a case for planned murder, an angle they say the police failed to investigate.
The petition says, “The eight patients in the ICU were apparently administered a medicine called Trofentyl 50 10 ML 2 on August 5, 2020. This medicine takes patients into deep sleep and makes them semi-conscious, and is used as an anesthetic agent for short surgical procedures. This medicine should not be used for mild pain. Only three patients were on ventilator as per records.” It further alleges, “However, it appears that the patients who were not on ventilator were also administered this medicine only on the previous day and never before that. The possibility of a well-planned murder has not been investigated by the police. The police have not investigated why this medicine was administered on the evening of August 5 alone? The reason could be the hospital knew about this well-planned incident and ensured that the patients did not wake up.”
The Gujarat HC has issued notice to the state government and the matter is posted for hearing on October 14.
Curious case of the missing mobile phones
SabrangIndia has previously reported on how the mobile phones of the deceased, who were all being treated for Covid, went missing mysteriously on the night of the fire.
In a representation to the Assistant Commissioner of Police, A Division, Ahmedabad City, Rajesh Shah, the son of the deceased Lilavatiben Shah says, “It would also be crucially important to inform you that on 6 th August 2020 at 7:22 am I made a call on the mobile phone (Micromax) number ********** which was with my Late mother until the night of 5 th August 2020, however, nobody responded. When I called up on the same number at 7:27 am, the phone was shockingly switched off. I thereafter received a call from the mobile phone (Micromax) number belonging to my mother Late Smt. Lilavatiben Shah having number – ********** at 1:17 pm and my phone rang 4 times. However, since I missed the phone call from my Late mother’s mobile phone, I immediately called back on her number at 1:18 pm which was answered by a lady from an area in Ahmedabad named Bapunagar. Upon enquiring as to how did she get possession of the mobile phone belonging to my Late mother which was in the ICU ward with my Late mother, I was informed that the lady who answered the phone call is mother of a lady named Manisha who works at Shrey Hospital and that she was given the mobile phone by Manisha. The lady further threatened me not to call on the mobile phone and that she will be deleting the details from my Late mother’s mobile phone, which admittedly did not belong to her, and proceeded to disconnect the phone. Thereafter, I tried to call on the said mobile phone on 11 th August 2020 at 10.13 am, 3.43 pm and 3.50 pm but the phone could not connect.”
At that time, speaking to SabrangIndia Shah had said, “The investigation has not been proper and we are still waiting for answers. This incident has taken a heavy emotional toll on the entire family.”
Advocate Suhel Tirmizi, whose wife Ayesha perished in the fire, also had a curious experience where his wife’s phone appeared to have remained intact, hours after the fire. He told SabrangIndia, “I had sent her a video message at 5:30 A.M. and it showed that it was delivered. Now if the victims died of 80 percent burns, how did their phones not get damaged?”
Advocate Tirmizi has also filed a representation to the Additional Commissioner of Police where he elaborates on the same point. He says that “despite the entire ICU Ward at Shrey Hospital being reduced to ashes pursuant to a fire breaking out at 3:03am on 6 th August 2020, the mobile phone being Moto G5 (cream / golden in colour) (IMEI 1 No.xxxx & IMEI 2 No.: xxxx) bearing No. xxxxxxxxxx belonging to my wife Late Mrs. Ayshaben Tirmizi was in working condition since messages could be delivered on the said phone even after the incident and infact, calls could be made and the said mobile phone was ringing till around 4:00 p.m. on 7 th August 2020, i.e. almost 36 hours after the incident.”
DA Mehta inquiry commission findings
(Retd.) Justice DA Mehta has been heading probes into various fires that have broken out in Covid-care hospitals in not only Ahmedabad, but also Bharuch and Rajkot. It has held both, Shrey Hospital owner Bharat Mahant as well as the state government responsible for the fatal inferno. While holding Mahant guilty of negligence and failing to adhere to fire safety norms, it came down hard on the government for outsourcing critical functions and regularizing unauthorized constructions. “The state government needs to understand that in every sphere of governance, outsourcing of employees is not only detrimental to an effective and efficient government, but it creates a situation, a culture which yields negative results by way of outright poor performance,” said the report. On the subject of relarising unauthorized constructions it said, “A serious relook at the policy of regularisation of unauthorized construction is required to be undertaken. More specifically in the case of nursing homes and hospitals which would include maternity homes and other specialised medical and surgical care units. Otherwise, the state government would fail in its duty to take care of the lives of its citizens,” adding, “If unauthorised construction in and out of Shrey hospital premises would not have been regularised, the fatalities which took place in night of 5/6 August, 2020 could have been avoided.”
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