The Calcutta High Court Wednesday admitted a petition by the city’s AMRI Hospital, seeking the West Bengal government’s intervention in paying compensation to the families of those killed in a fire in its premises last month.
Justice J.K. Biswas directed the state government and Kolkata police chief to file affidavits stating their stand on the issue within three weeks.
The court, however, denied any interim relief to the hospital.
The hospital in its petition sought direction to the government to make arrangements for paying a compensation of Rs.5 lakh, declared by it for the families of the victims.
The hospital earlier sent letters to the police commissioner urging him to arrange the payment of money. It was forced to seek the court’s intervention as the police official did not reply to any of the letters, said AMRI counsel S. Pal.
The hospital contended that the government had the requisite facilities to identify the relatives of the victims and to ensure that the payment was made to the right persons.
Appearing for the state, counsel Kalyan Banerjee opposed the petition contending that the government had no legal obligation to help the hospital which “killed” 94 innocent people.
Banerjee said that if the court issued any direction in favour of the hospital then there was a likelihood that it may afford them an opportunity to influence key witnesses.
The state government had earlier declared an ex-gratia of Rs.3 lakh to the kin of each of the victims. On Monday, family members of 29 victims were handed over the cheques at the Kolkata police headquarters in Lalbazar.
In the worst fire tragedy in any hospital in India, 94 patients and staffers were killed when a blaze started in the basement of the annexe building of the hospital Dec 9 and quickly spread, trapping hundreds of people.
Seven of the hospital’s directors and two other employees are behind bars in connection with the tragedy. A look-out notice has been issued against three other directors.