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Kolkata blaze: Hospital director’s bail plea rejected

A West Bengal court Wednesday rejected the bail plea of AMRI Hospital director R.S. Agarwal, an accused in the hospital fire which killed 93 people Dec 9.

The court also turned down the prosecution’s plea for his police custody and ordered Agarwal be kept at the state-run Seth Sukhlal Karnani Memorial Hospital (SSKM) Hospital under arrest till a medical board submitted its final report on his health condition.

“Keeping in mind the gravity and magnitude of the case as well as the chance to tamper with evidence his (Agarwal) bail plea is rejected,” the court said.

“After giving my judicious consideration on the medical board’s (preliminary) report. I am not at all inclined to send the accused to police custody,” said the order of Chief Judicial Magistrate, Alipore, (South 24 Parganas) C.H. Karim.

The blaze at 3.30 a.m. in the Advanced Medicare & Research Institute (AMRI) Hospital — co-founded by the Emami and Shrachi Groups along with the state government in 1996 — led to the deaths of 93 people, mostly patients.

Earlier, defence counsel Amit Bhattacharya sought bail for the 67-year-old Agarwal on health grounds and prayed that he be provided home cooked food and an attendant.

The court though said that it was the discretion of the medical board and asked the SSKM Hospital authorities to look after the pleas.

The medical board has also been directed to submit a final report on his health Dec 23.

Agarwal, chairman of the Rs.1,100 crore Emami Ltd. – was not physically present before the court and he continues to be at the SSKM.

Among other prayers, the defence counsel requested that Agarwal be shifted to the intensive cardiac care unit along with allowing an expert from the private B.M. Birla Heart Research Centre – where he was under treatment earlier – to supervise his treatment.

Public Prosecutor S.P. Ghosh opposed the plea and said accused’s pleas related to home cooked food and personal attendant should be decided by the medical board.

Bhattacharya, however, countered saying the board has been formed to ascertain whether the accused was healthy enough to come to court and not to monitor his daily health.

Agarwal, one of the seven AMRI directors arrested Dec 9, hours after the blaze at the hospital in South Kolkata’s Dhakuria area. Since he was taken ill and admitted to a private hospital, he was kept under arrest there.

The six other arrested directors of the hospital, including Shrachi Group chairman S.K. Todi and his counterpart in the Emami Group R.S. Goenka, have been remanded to police custody till Dec 23.



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