HC bench that criticised Ahmedabad hospital reshuffled

Gujarat HC bench that called Ahmedabad civil hospital 'dungeon' reshuffled

The division bench of Gujarat High Court, that had passed several scathing orders against the state government for poor handling of coronavirus pandemic terming the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital as a "dungeon", was reshuffled on Thursday, with the Chief Justice taking over as the lead judge, leaving the senior judge of the previous bench as junior.

The chief justice Vikram Nath passed an order on Thursday, bringing himself in the bench along with justice J B Pardiwala. It is to be noted that the division bench of chief justice Nath and justice A J Shastri had first took suo motu cognisance on March 13 and issued notice to state government over "precautionary measures in the wake of the pandemic of coronavirus (COVID-19)."  Subsequently, many petitions were filed which are being heard together. Later, the bench was changed and justice Pardiwala and justice Ilesh J Vora were assigned to hear the petitions.

On May 11, the bench led by justice Pardiwala took suo motu cognisance of several media reports on issues pertaining to migrant workers' plight, mortality rate of COVID-19 patients and grim situation in the Ahmedabad civil hospital. On May 22, the bench made many critical remarks against the state government for failing to control the pandemic and chaos. The court criticised the bureaucrats and health minister while terming the civil hospital, where nearly 400 patients have passed away, "as good as a dungeon."

A couple of days later, the embarrassed state government filed urgent plea, despite being a national holiday for Eid, seeking clarification on observation with regard to the civil hospital and remarks made against the health minister Nitin Patel and other officers. Lawyers of other litigants were allegedly barred from the proceeding. While taking the clarification on record, the bench said that it would make a surprise visit to check the actual condition of civil hospital.

Meanwhile, the bench will be hearing another move by Ahmedabad Medical Association seeking court's intervention to permit private labs for testing samples. For nearly a week, the state government has barred private labs from testing on their own and appointed a nodal officer whose prior approval is needed for testing every sample.
Meanwhile, Gujarat recorded 367 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, taking the total to 15,572. The death toll reached 960 after 22 more patients died. The government's release stated that there were 76 patients on ventilators. The number of discharged patients increased to 8,001 while the total number of tests till Thursday evening was recorded at 1,98,048.

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