Seven directors of city-based AMRI Hospital – where a fire killed 90 people the day before – were Saturday sent to 10 days’ police custody by a court here while hundreds of protestors outside the court premises demanded death penalty for them and lawyers vowed not to defend them.
The Advanced Medicare and Research Institute (AMRI) directors, including Shrachi Group chairman S.K. Todi and his counterpart in the Emami Group R.S. Goenka, were brought to court under tight security as hundreds of agitated people gathered near the court building and shouted slogans, demanding death penalty for them.
One of the seven directors, R.S. Agarwal, who was admitted to a private hospital Friday evening, could not be presented before Alipore Chief Judicial Magistrate S.M. Shahnawaz Khan. Agarwal was placed under arrest in the hospital.
Government counsel Kalyan Bandopadhyay sought 14 days’ police custody of the arrested directors. The court remanded them in police custody for 10 days.
Accusing the hospital authorities of recklessness, Bandopadhyay later told reporters: “The directors had deliberately switched off the fire alarms and locked the exit doors. They had blatantly violated fire safety norms.”
The directors were arrested Friday for offences that include culpable homicide not amounting to murder which attracts a maximum punishment of a jail term up to ten years and fine.
The Alipore Lawyers Association, a group of advocates, also joined the demonstrators outside the court and said its representatives would not allow any legal practitioner to stand in defence for the accused hospital directors.
“We have decided that no lawyer will stand in defence of these people (directors). We not only demand death penalty for them but also urge the court not to grant bail,” said association secretary Kalachand Talukdar.
In the worst fire tragedy in any hospital in India, 90 patients and three staffers were killed in the city’s well-known AMRI Hospital when a blaze started in the basement of the annexe building early Friday and quickly spread, trapping hundreds of people.
The pre-dawn blaze broke out at 3.30 a.m., catching many patients in their sleep. While most nurses, doctors and other staffers were able to get away, many critically ill patients died in their hospital beds.