Too many witnesses in AMRI case: Calcutta HC


Metros, Kolkata

Court says case difficult to conclude with 455 witnesses.

Calcutta High Court

Kolkata: The Calcutta high court has asked prosecutors in the AMRI Hospital fire case to bring down the number of witnesses from a staggering 455 to a practical figure so the trial can be concluded within a time frame.

The fire had claimed 92 lives on December 9, 2011. Hearing a petition by cardiac specialist Dr Mani Chhetri for the quashing of proceedings against him, justice Joymalyo Bagchi observed that examining 455 witnesses could make the trial go on for many years. Mr Bagchi added that the prosecution would have to scale it down to a practical number so that the trial could be completed within around two years.

Public prosecutor Saswata Gopal Mukherjee submitted before the court that he would come back with a plausible plan for scaling down the number of witnesses and inform the court about it on the next date of hearing on May 18. Mr Mukherjee submitted during the proceedings earlier this week that the prosecution was ready to hold day-to-day trial if the high court passed directions asking the trial court to make such arrangement.

Opposing the prayer of the nonagenarian Dr Chhetri, who was one of the directors of AMRI hospital at the time of the fire incident, Mr Mukherjee submitted that the trial in the case had already began. At this, justice Bagchi said that only one witness had been examined by the prosecution in the trial court.

Dr Chhetri said though the license of the hospital had been in his name, he was not involved in the day-to-day operations of the hospital. Mr Chhetri, 11 other directors, and four officials of the hospital have been charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder which entails a punishment of 10 years in jail if found guilty.

They were also charged under various sections of the West Bengal Fire Services Act pertaining to violations of fire safety rules. Charges were framed against all 16 accused persons, all of whom are out on bail, by the Alipore court on June 30, 2016.