The Andhra Pradesh High Court on Friday issued instructions allowing the custodial interrogation of Dr Pothineni Ramesh Babu, Managing Director of Ramesh Cardiac Multispeciality Hospital, who is one of the accused in the Swarna Palace hotel fire accident that left 10 COVID-19 patients dead.
The court has directed Dr Ramesh Babu to present himself before the Additional Deputy Commissioner, the investigating officer in the case. The court has given the accused time till December 2 to present himself before the investigating officer for questioning.
The court has stated that the accused can be questioned from 10 am to 5 pm in the presence of his lawyer. The court also directed the police to not use any third-degree means of interrogation and keep human rights in mind, reported The New Indian Express.
The decision, granting the police permission to interrogate Dr Ramesh Babu, was delivered by Justice C Manavendranath after the former agreed to be interrogated by the police. Earlier, the state had formed 14 teams to try and trace the whereabouts of the doctor who had been evading arrest.
The Andhra Pradesh High Court had also stayed police action against Dr Ramesh after he filed a petition seeking to quash the case against him. The Supreme Court, however, found fault with the AP High Court stay on the interrogation after being challenged by the Andhra Pradesh government.
Ten people had died on August 9 when a fire broke out at the Swarna Palace hotel, which was converted into a COVID-19 treatment care centre where patients with mild symptoms were being treated. There were 43 people present at the hotel when the incident occurred, including 30 COVID-19 patients.
The AP police had arrested three persons in connection with the case. Kodali Raja Gopala Rao, the Chief Operating Officer of Ramesh Hospitals Ltd, who had leased Swarna Palace to operate the COVID-19 care centre, was arrested. He had obtained permissions from the Vijayawada District Collector and the District Medical Health Office (DMHO) to start a paid COVID care centre on behalf of Ramesh Hospitals Ltd. Dr Kurapati Sudarshan, the general manager and overall in-charge of the hotel, and the night manager of the COVID-19 care centre, Pallabothu Venkatesh, were also arrested. The night manager Venkatesh was asleep in the hotelâ€™s restaurant at the time of the accident.
The Mandal Revenue Officer (MRO) of Vijayawada Central, P Jayasri in her complaint to the police claimed that the authorities of Ramesh Hospitals and Hotel Swarna Palace management knew that there were electrical defects in the hotel building. The complainant alleged that the management was aware that a short-circuit fire was possible, but went ahead with setting up a COVID-19 care centre in the building without taking the necessary precautions. The management was also accused of not carrying out repairs as it was expensive.