The CPI-M state unit on Thursday sought the Himachal Pradesh High Court's intervention to investigate the state-run hydropower plant's decision to completely shut its generation and suddenly release water into the Beas river.
The wall of released water washed away 24 students of Hyderabad's V.N.R. Vignana Jyothi Institute of Engineering and Technology. They were standing on the boulders in the river bed for a picture-postcard shoot Sunday.
More than 60 students and faculty members from the institute were on an excursion to Manali when the incident occurred.
While eight bodies have been fished out of the river, search operations were on Thursday to locate the remaining 16 students and a tour operator.
"The question arises why is it that the water was allowed to spill over (from the 126 MW Larji hydropower dam) when there were no flash floods or cloudburst upstream," CPI-M state secretariat member Tikender Singh Panwar said in a missive to the high court's acting chief justice.
He said the project authorities have also said it was not a regular exercise of de-silting and flushing out water. "Then why is it that the generation was shut and the water was allowed to spill over?"
A day after the incident, the high court here Monday said it was a case not only of callousness but also of grave negligence.
"It's 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," Justice Tarlok Singh Chauhan said.
"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," Justice Chauhan observed.
The high court, which treated a media report as a public interest litigation, directed the state to file a status report on the incident by June 16.
In the letter, Panwar said on the day of the tragedy there was overproduction of electricity taking place (in the country) and the state was asked (by the national load dispatch centre) to reduce the production from its plants.
"The share of less production could have been borne by many state hydropower producers, including the public sector and private companies. But, the state load dispatch centre, which is responsible to shed the load, asked only Larji, a public sector company, for a complete shutdown. Why?"
The CPI-M leader said: "Simply because there have been indication of the state load dispatch centre officials, allegedly bribed by private (hydro companies). Each of the private and public sector companies could have been asked to at least shut one turbine and the desired result (less production) could have been achieved."
Panwar requested the court to bring the role of the state load dispatch centre officials too under the ambit of its writ so "their negligence or connivance is exposed".
Police have registered a case against the hydropower project authorities for causing death by negligence and endangering life of others.