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Discrimination cry in Shabana damages suit

The Rs 20,000 that chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee pledged to Ashraf Khan and Naseema on Tuesday was no compensation for the death of their six-month-old daughter Shabana Parveen.

This was made clear on Friday by a public interest litigation (PIL) moved before the division bench of Chief Justice A.K. Mathur and Justice A.K. Banerjee of Calcutta High Court, demanding Rs 10 lakh compensation for Naseema, mother of the child who had died after being held up in a rally near Calcutta Medical College and Hospital on October 13.

The PIL also demanded an inquiry into the death of the child and punishment of those found guilty.

Advocate Sreemoyee Das requested the division bench to add Naseema as a party to the case filed by advocate Idris Ali, seeking an order asking the state to pay a compensation of Rs 10 lakh to the family of Susmita Biswas, the 20-year-old who had died in SSKM Hospital after lying unattended for hours on October 17.

The bench asked Das to come to court with Shabana’s family members and said it would fix the matter for hearing on November 7. The petitioner later claimed that Naseema had signed a vakalatnama appointing her their lawyer.

Referring to the amount the chief minister had promised Naseema and husband Ashraf when they met him in his Writers’ Buildings chamber on Tuesday, Das said: “He (Bhattacharjee) gave them only Rs 20,000 and washed his hands of the matter. His indifferent attitude towards the poor family had prompted it to file a case in high court… The state government should pay at least Rs 10 lakh to Shabana’s parents.”

Das went on to allege that Shabana’s parents had been discriminated against, both by the government and by the hospital authorities, because they were poor. The chief minister had called Susmita’s parents to Writers’ Buildings’, while Naseema and Ashraf had to go to meet the chief minister by themselves and were harassed at Writers’ for a long time, before being allowed entry, she added.

According to high court sources, at least five other cases involving medical negligence in government-run hospitals will come up for hearing in the next couple of weeks. Among them is a PIL filed by an advocate after his mother’s death at SSKM Hospital.

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