Bombay HC says hospitals can’t be closed down without due process of law

Notwithstanding the Covid-19 pandemic, a hospital cannot be shut down without following due process of law, Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court said on Thursday while striking down an order passed by local authorities, shutting down a hospital at Jalna abruptly.

“If a particular procedure is prescribed for initiating appropriate steps with regard to complaints against a hospital, such procedure has to be necessarily followed and a drastic order of closure of the hospital cannot be passed under the pretext of Covid-19 Pandemic,” said the bench of justice Ravindra Ghuge and justice Shrikant Kulkarni.

The bench struck down an order issued by the district administration on August 21, 2020 cancelling registration of Arogyam Hospital, run by Dr. Ritesh Agrawal, after finding out that no notice was issued to the doctor before issuing the shutdown order.

The bench rejected submissions advanced by government pleader DR Kale that a large number of complaints were received about malpractices in the hospital while Covid-19 pandemic was spreading its tentacles and there was a public uproar over the alleged mismanagement at the petitioner’s hospital.

“It was in these peculiar circumstances that a show-cause notice of hearing before the issuing of the order of closure could not be given,” Kale had said.

The bench, however, refused to accept the explanation in view of an order pronounced by the HC in December 2018, holding that under provisions of the Bombay Nursing Homes Registration Act, 1949, a notice is required to be issued before cancelling registration of a hospital, and registration cancelled without giving hearing to the concerned is not legally sustainable.

HC has now directed that the order dated August 21 be treated as a show cause notice to the hospital administration and the competent authority under the Bombay Nursing Homes Registration Act, 1949, shall pass a fresh order on complaints received against Arogyam Hospital by September 19, after granting the hospital an opportunity to file a reply to the notice and the hearing.

On the request of the government pleader, the bench has restrained the hospital, where nine patients are admitted for treatment, from admitting any other patient till a fresh order is passed by the competent authority.

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