Guj HC awards Rs 3.75 lakh compensation to quake victims

Ahmedabad: The Gujarat High Court on Thursday upheld a trial court order and awarded compensation of Rs 3.75 lakh each to the families of 23 children who died after their school collapsed during the 2001 earthquake.

A division bench of Justices Jayant Patel and Abhilasha Kumari while pronouncing the judgement, observed that the four-storey building of the school run by Shriram Education Trust (SET) in Ghodasar area of city collapsed due to sub-standard material used in its construction.

The court ordered SET trustees to pay Rs 3.75 lakh each to the families of 23 victims who had approached the court, in three months with eight per cent interest from the date of filing of the petition.

During the 2001 earthquake, the four-storey school building of SET had collapsed, killing 32 children.

The parents of 23 victims approached a local court for compensation, which in 2007 awarded a compensation of Rs 2 lakh each with five per cent interest.

The trial court order was challenged by both parents and SET in the High Court which today, upheld the 2007 order and hiked the compensation amount to Rs 3.75 lakh.

The High Court in its order has rejected the argument of the trustees of SET that the building had collapsed due to earthquake which was an act of God.

The court observed that the 11-month old building had collapsed not due to natural calamity, but due to negligence in construction on part of the school trustees and the builder who did not follow the requisite norms.

The Court further said that reports by experts showed that inferior quality material was used during construction, which resulted in the collapse of the school building, while another building of the same trust which was 12-year-old remained intact.

According to advocate Hasmukh Patel who represented the families of victims, some of his clients were contemplating challenging the order in the Supreme Court for increased compensation and also to get the court to direct the government to have some regulation for construction of buildings.