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Kerala HC raps state govt on Thekkady boat tragedy

Last Updated: Tuesday, October 20, 2009 - 22:02

Kochi: Rapping the state government for not
taking sufficient protective steps to avert the Thekkady boat
tragedy that claimed 45 lives, the Kerala High Court on Tuesday
said there were defects in construction of the ferry which was
carrying passengers beyond its permitted limit.

Granting bail to the five accused including the boat
driver, Justice K T Shankaran expressed dissatisfaction over
the infrastructure provided to conduct safety tests on boats.

"The state of Kerala has witnessed several boat
accidents. After the incidents, we start lamenting. Then we
indulge in finding who is responsible for it. Sometimes a
commission may be appointed. Nobody knows what happens to the
commission report," the court said.

The court said prima facie the tender to construct the
boat `Jalakanyka` was given without scientific study.

"Required safety checks were not carried out. It has been
reported there was a 2.9 degree slant in the boat," it said.

More passengers were taken on board though tickets were
issued only to 75 persons. The driver, lesker and forest
department gatekeeper were responsible for allowing more
passengers to board the boat, the court said, adding that they
used to indulge in such practice and divide the profits.

The court found that the boat driver, Victor Samuel, was
not well experienced and had taken charge on Sept 20 this
year, 10 days before the mishap.

On the day of the incident, at least 10 additional
passengers were on board the vessel, which had a slant towards
the right from the beginning. Enough life-jackets or sufficient number of buoys were
also not available on board.

The court said the state-run Kerala Tourism Development
Corporation, which spent Rs 42 lakh for the boat, did not
derive the benefit of the amount it spent, nor did the
tourists get the benefit of safety.

"This is a matter to be seriously taken note of by the
state," it said.

Those granted bail included boat driver Victor Samuel,
sub crew Lasker Anish, gatekeeper P Prakash, Director of
Vignesh Marine Services, Chennai, N A Giri and Chief Surveyor
of Indian Registrar of Ships, K K Sajeev. They have been asked
to deposit a bail bond of Rs 50,000 each and two solvent
sureties for a like amount.

"We have seen several tragedies affecting the lives of
hundreds of citizens. I think it is high time a graver
punishment is provided for the offences alleged under sections
280 and 282 and make those offences non-bailable. This is a
matter to be considered by Parliament and not to be dictated
by the court," Justice Sankaran said while granting bail.

For offences under these two sections, six months
imprisonment and a fine of Rs 1000 is prescribed under IPC,
the court said and pointed out these sections provide for
`meagre` punishment.

The tourist boat owned by Kerala Tourism Development
Corporation capsized in Thekkady lake while ferrying over 70
tourists on September 30.

Bureau Report

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First Published: Tuesday, October 20, 2009 - 22:02
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