On Wednesday, the Supreme Court allowed Tamil Nadu Government to use four floors of a Chennai-based private hospital for treating COVID-19 patients, which was facing a demolition action on the ground of unauthorized construction.
A bench comprising of Chief Justice S A Bobde, Justices A S Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy passed the order in an application filed by Billroth Hospital, in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic, seeking permission to use the 4th to 7th floors for treatment on the ground that the State of Tamil Nadu needs additional in-patient bed.
Earlier, the hospital was found to be illegal by the Madras High Court and has been facing demolition for unauthorized construction. However, in June last year, the apex court had put a stay on the demolition.
Initially, the apex court observed that the hospital cannot be permitted to use the floors as it has been facing trial, however, since the request was made by the State Government, the top court permitted to use the floors.
“Even though the need for using available space for the purpose of locating in-patient beds is legitimate and necessary, we see no reason why the said floors should be allowed to be used by the petitioner-Hospital. However, since the demand for additional space has been made by the State of Tamil Nadu, we consider it appropriate to permit the State of Tamil Nadu to use the said floors, i.e., 4th to 7th floors of the building for the purpose of dealing with the pandemic,” noted the bench. Further, the bench clarified that such use will not create any rights in favor of the hospital.
“This order, however, will not create any rights in favor of the petitioner-Hospital and have no bearing on the question of regularization of the said premises which are sought for in the petitions,” said the SC bench.
On 3rd June 2019, the top court had stayed the Madras High Court judgment ordering the demolition of the top five floors of the eight-story block of Billroth Hospitals Ltd for alleged violation of the approved building plan. It had however directed the hospital not to use these top five floors for any activity.
Senior advocate N K Kaul, appearing for the hospital, has sought permission to use these floors for COVID-19 patients saying that at least 150 beds will be allotted for such patients.
Earlier, the hospital told the apex court that it had applied under the 2017 building regularisation scheme of Tamil Nadu for regularisation on the floors. The hospital, having 250 beds, said that it was operational since 2005-2006 and the authorities can decide on its application for regularisation within a month.
“For the time being we will grant stay but you will not use these floors (fourth to eighth). You had built it till the eighth floor in 2009 with impunity. You used it without any sanctioned building plan,” the apex court had said.
Subsequently, the top court asked the state government to have arrangements with the private hospital regarding doctors, nursing staff and other facilities for treating COVID-19 patients.