Constitution of India, 1950 – Article 21 – Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 – Section 357A – Victim Compensation Scheme – Court on its own motion – Death of 24 students and one Tour Operator by drowning in river.
IN THE HIGH COURT OF HIMACHAL PRADESH, SHIMLA
CWPIL No. 7 of 2014
Decided on: 02.01.2016
Court on its own motion …Petitioner. Versus State of Himachal Pradesh and others …Respondents. Coram The Hon’ble Mr. Justice Mansoor Ahmad Mir, Chief Justice. The Hon’ble Mr. Justice Tarlok Singh Chauhan, Judge.
For the petitioner: Mr. Dilip Sharma, Senior Advocae, as Amicus Curiae, with Mr. Manish Sharma, Advocate. For the respondents: Mr. Shrawan Dogra, Advocate General, with Mr. Anup Rattan, Additional Advocate General, and Mr. J.K. Verma, Deputy Advocate General, for respondents No. 1 to 3, 5 to 9 and 12. Mr. Shrawan Dogra and Mr. Satyen Vaidya, Senior Advocates, with Mr. Satish Sharma, Advocate, for respondents No. 4, 10 and 11. Mr. Rajnish Maniktala, Advocate, for respondents No. 13, 23 and 24. Mr. V. Pattabhi and Mr. Rajnish Maniktala, Advocates, for respondent No. 22. Mr. Tek Chand Sharma, Advocate, for respondents No. 14 and 15. Mr. Bimal Gupta, Senior Advocate, with Mr. Vineet Vashisth, Advocate, for respondents No. 16 and 17. Mr. J.S. Bhogal, Senior Advocate, with Mr. Lovneesh Kanwar, Advocate, for respondent No. 18. Mr. Lalit K. Sharma, Advocate, for respondent No. 19. Mr. Bipin C. Negi, Senior Advocate, with Mr. Pranay Pratap Singh, Advocate, for respondent No. 20. Mr. Ajeet Sharma, Advocate, for respondent No. 21. Mr. S.C. Sharma, Advocate, for the applicant in CMP No. 9126 of 2014. Mr. Ajay Mohan Goel and Mr. Suneet Goel, Advocates, for the interveners. Mr. Ashok Sharma, Assistant Solicitor General of India, with Mr. Nipun Sharma, Advocate, for Union of India. Mansoor Ahmad Mir, Chief Justice.
1. We are dealing with an unfortunate case, of which cognizance has been taken by this Court suo motu while going through a news item contained in Amar Ujala of issue, dated 09.06.2014. The news was so shocking and pricking that it shattered everyone. It was an unfortunate incident which has snatched away 24 budding Engineers alongwith one tour conductor. All the 24 students were undergoing the course of B. Tech in Electronic and Instrumentation in respondent No. 13College in Hyberabad, which is one of the first grade Engineering College.
2. In terms of directions, dated 09.06.2014, status report was filed and FIR No. 61 of 2014 was registered at Police Station Aut, District Mandi, under
Sections 336 and 304A of the Indian Penal Code
(for short “IPC”). The investigation was conducted by the police and by now, it has been taken to its logical end by presenting final report (challan) under
Section 173 of the Code of Criminal Procedure
(for short “CrPC”) before the Court of competent jurisdiction.
3. The VNR Vigyan Jyoti Institute of Engineering and Technology, Hyderabad (for short “the College”) came to be arrayed as partyrespondent No. 13 in the array of respondents. Respondents No. 14 to 24 were also arrayed as partyrespondents in terms of the orders passed by this Court from time to time.
4. The inquiry report was submitted by respondent No. 12Divisional Commissioner in the open Court on 19.06.2014, in presence of respondents No. 4, 10 and 11.
5. Interim compensation to the tune of ₹5,00,000/ came to be granted in favour of the parents of each of the deceased students vide order, dated 25.06.2014. The H.P. State Electricity Board Limited (for short “the Board”) and the College were saddled with the liability in equal shares.
6. The State authorities have filed status reports from time to time. Respondents have also filed replies and affidavits, which are at pages No. 11 and 43 of the paper book, including the inquiry report at pages No. 52 to 152 of the paper book.
7. Respondent No. 1Chief Secretary to the Government of Himachal Pradesh has also filed photocopy of the instructions issued by the Board, which were to be observed by the officials before discharge of water from the barrage/reservoir, which are at page No. 23 of the paper book.
8. After noticing the unfortunate incident, respondent No. 3Principal Secretary (Power) to the Government of Himachal Pradesh has issued instructions relating to the issue, which are contained at page No. 41 of the paper book.
9. The inquiry report contains the details relating to the negligence, prima facie, committed by the incharge officers/ officials of the Board at the relevant point of time . The said finding is recorded at page 77 of the paper book. It also contains suggestions to avoid such lapses/ recurrences and incidents, at pages No. 91 to 98 of the paper book.
10. Respondents filed response/objections/rejoinder to the said inquiry report, which are at pages No. 283, 417, 532 and 541 of the paper book.
11. In compliance to order, dated 25.06.2014, respondent No. 1Chief Secretary to the Government of Himachal Pradesh has filed compliance report/affidavit, which is at page No. 575 of the paper book alongwith the inquiry report submitted by the Chief Engineer (Electrical), Directorate of Energy, H.P., Shimla, who was appointed as Inquiry Officer to enquire into the matter regarding the functioning of the H.P. State Load Discharge Centre (for short “HPSLDC”) and The Northern Region Load Discharge Centre (for short “NRLDC”), which finds place at page No. 579 of the paper book, containing the details of the provisions of the Indian Electricity Act, 2003 (for short “Act”) relating to the National Load Dispatch Centre (for short “NLDC”), Regional Load Dispatch Centre (for short “RLDC”) and State Load Discharge Centre (for short “SLDC”); applicability of the provisions of the Rules and Regulations and the findings relating to the working of NRLDC, how State is running and manning the projects, its control and how the projects in the State continue to run on full or in some cases more than the capacity.
12. The said inquiry report also discloses the details of the working of HPSLDC, at pages No. 618 to 635 of the paper book; analysis of power availability, at pages No. 636 to 638 of the paper book; findings on functioning of SLDC relating to the incident specifically, at pages No. 639 to 642 of the paper book and the issues of importance and suggested remedial measures, at pages No. 643 to 646 of the paper book.
13. Respondents No. 5, 8 and 9 have filed status report of the case FIR No. 61 of 2014, at pages No. 866 to 871 of the paper book. Respondent No. 1 Chief Secretary to the Government of Himachal Pradesh has filed compliance report/affidavit (pages No. 873 to 891 of the paper book), in compliance to order, dated 09.07.2014, alongwith the minutes of the meeting held on 21.07.2014, to review implementation of Government instructions pursuant to the inquiry conducted by the Divisional Commissioner, Mandi and the inquiry report submitted by the Chief Engineer, Directorate of Energy, H.P., Shimla, contained at pages No. 880 to 888 of the paper book.
14. The responses/affidavits/status reports/compliance affidavits/additional documents/suggestions filed by the respective respondents are contained at pages No. 892 to 1606 of the paper book.
15. Respondent No. 13College has also placed on record proposal with regard to integrated, intelligent, safety management system for monitoring the reservoir regulation.
16. One Shri Om Prakash Sharma had submitted a letter/suggestions in the open Court, contained at page No. 1446 of the paper book, which stands replied by respondent No. 4Managing Director, HPSEBL at pages No. 1501 to 1504 of the paper book.
17. The unfortunate parents, by the medium of CMP No. 2792 of 2015, have placed on record the material relating to the placement, remunerations, fees and other emoluments, the students of the respondent College were being afforded by the companies at the time of their placement, contained at pages No. 1505 to 1520 of the paper book, which is practice prevalent in the said College, but unfortunately, their bright future stands snatched away, rather cut short and the parents stand deprived of the said source/income, hope and help in old age. They have also tried to assess the average loss to the parents per year. It is apt to reproduce para 2 of CMP No. 2792 of 2015 herein: