AMRI fire: HC seeks state reply on plea against firemen

The Calcutta High Court today directed the state government to file an affidavit against a petition alleging that the Kolkata Police did not investigate into the role of the fire officials in connection with the fire that broke out at AMRI hospital on December 9, 2011.

A total of 90 patients and two nurses had choked to death in the incident, which sparked criticism of "negligence on the part of the officials in the Fire Services Department (FSD) who had illegally issued No Objection Certificates (NOC) to AMRI hospital". The petition, filed by an advocate Ramaprasad Sarkar, had also put the Special Investigation Team of the Kolkata Police in the dock, saying it did not investigate into the affair.

Advocate Sarkar petition pointed out that although the Kolkata Police filed charge-sheet against 16 people - 12 directors and four employees of the AMRI hospital - on charges of negligence, it did not investigate into the role of the Fire Service Authority, who, the petition read, were equally responsible.

The 1,300 pages-long charge-sheet, with names of 455 witnesses, was filed on March 1, 2012. It, however, is still pending with the Chief Judicial Magistrate of Alipore Court, and yet to be forwarded to the sessions court for trial.

The petition has urged the high court to direct the Kolkata Police as well as the state government to investigate into the officials' role and forward the charge-sheet before the court for trial. The Division Bench of Chief Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Joymalya Bagchi asked for the state government's view and directed it to file an affidavit within six weeks.

According to the petition, the West Bengal Fire Service Authority advised the AMRI in April 2005 to clear the basement, now converted into an office. But the hospital did not comply. Referring to the charge-sheet, the petition read: The hospital authority all along failed to comply with the said advice and recommendations of the FSD. In spite of such violations on the part of the hospital authority, the FSD subsequently issued four NOC, each time after physical inspection and with full knowledge as to the dangerous condition of the said upper basement wall.The petition alleged that such NOCs were illegal and mala fide, and the negligence on the part of the Fire Service Authority is not mentioned in the charge-sheet.

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