High Court acts suo moto on Beas tragedy : Himachal Pradesh


By : Mohan Verma

Himachal Pradesh High Court took suo moto action over the washing away of 25 students of an engineering college of Hyderabad at Mandi district in Himachal.

The High Court single bench vacation Judge Mr. Justice Tarlok Singh Chauhan on Monday took suo moto over the mishap initiating court’s own motion directing the respondent state to ensure immediate assistance to the victims family and ensure that such incident would not occur again.

Court passed this order over news report appeared in a vernacular which had reported that 24 students from VNR Jyoti Institute of Engineering, Hyderabad are feared to have been washed away in the Beas river on June 8, 2014 at about 1815 hours, when the Larji Hydro Power Project authorities discharged the water into river allegedly without any prior warning.

The students were on an excursion to tourist resort Manali. Court said that going by the contents of the news-item, it is a sad tale by reason of the fact that sheer fun of the young students turned out to be fatal as a consequence of utter and callous negligence of the power project authorities.

In case the water has been discharged without any warning as alleged, then prima-facie, it is established  that it is not only a case of callousness, but a case of grave negligence on the part of the project authorities.

It cannot even be said to be an error of judgment or accident as much as it was the duty of the authorities to have at least issued warning and resorted to the usual and common method of blaring the siren so as to ensure evacuation of the river bank before discharging the water. Therefore, the project authorities have prima-facie displayed callous and wanton disregard to their duties.

Taking into consideration the gravity of the situation, the respondent state is commanded to file a status report latest by June 16 2014, giving special reference to cause of the mishap and details of the steps taken with regard to the relief and rescue; place on record instructions regarding procedure to be observed before discharge of water from the barrage/reservoir etc.

The court further ordered the state to give detail of the warning system found installed at the site including and not restricted to siren, board carrying message of warning etc. and place on record the steps taken to ensure no re-occurrence of such incident in future.

In the meanwhile, the state along with other concerned respondents are directed to render all possible help and assistance to locate and trace the missing students.

In case of any casualty of life, the respondents will ensure that the bodies of the victims of this unfortunate tragedy are handed over with dignity and respect to the parents and guardians and further ensure that adequate arrangements are made for transporting the bodies to the native place(s) of the victims.

State if needed, should take assistance of civic, para-military and military authorities etc. so as to trace the missing students and take all other follow up actions as the situation may warrant.

High court also direct the state to set up a helpline number, if not already set up, and have the same displayed on the official website of the government and is further directed to inform and request his counterparts in the state of Andhra Pradesh (both old and new) about the same and to further request them to display these helpline numbers on their official websites and broadcast these over local radio, TV channels and newspapers.

Toll free number should also be communicated to the college concerned so as to provide latest information to the eager and anxious parents, guardians and well-wishers about the latest knowledge regarding whereabouts of their near and dear ones.

The project authorities in the meanwhile are directed to take all remedial measures so as to avoid any mishap in future.

Order said, “Let authenticated copy be supplied to the learned Additional Advocate General and the counsel appearing for HPSEBL.”

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