Four years on, Kolkata fire victims await justice

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, Kolkata
  • Updated: Apr 02, 2016 11:58 IST
Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee at a press conference in Kolkata. (UNI/File Photo)

Hours after Thursday’s flyover collapse, chief minister Mamata Banerjee promised stringent action against those responsible for the tragedy that claimed 24 lives and wounded about 90 people.

More than four years ago, she had vowed the same, after a devastating fire ripped through a city hospital and claimed 91 lives. But despite her promise of speedy justice, relatives of those who died in the 2011 blaze at the AMRI hospital in Dhakuria of south Kolkata are still awaiting justice.

The hospital has reopened, functioning from its parent building and an annexe that were spared by the fire. Only the building engulfed by the fire remains inoperative.

On March 19, a local city court ruled that 16 officials of the hospital will be charged under Section 304 of the Indian Penal Code (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) for the fire. If found guilty, those responsible could be jailed for up to 10 years and also fined. All the accused persons, currently out on bail, are to appear before the judge on April 16.

Several serious allegations like stocking inflammable goods in the underground car parking and not switching off AC machines were brought against the hospital authorities. This negligence allegedly caused the fire to spread to the upper floors of the Annexe 1 building. Among the dead were many patients.

Police had submitted the charge sheet in March 2012. Lawyers for the accused have over the years argued before the court that instead of Section 304, they should be tried only under Section 304A (death by negligence) carrying a sentence of maximum two years.

Where the case stands

Fire broke out at annexe 1 building in December 2011

Next court hearing: April 16

Charges under: IPC 304

Number of accused: 16

Number of witnesses in case: 452

91 people died

Max punishment: Jail term for maximum 10 years and/or fine.

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