In a country where murder of one person can land you behind bars for a minimum of 14-years, risking the lives of hundreds of people carries a two-year sentence.
According to Indian law, a structural collapse is just an act of negligence, which calls for just a two year sentence. The main accused in most of these cases are able to go scot-free.
Tuesday's pedestrian bridge collapse that left 27 labourers injured has also become just a case of grievous hurt and other such mild sections of the IPC. The Public Works Department was building the bridge for Commonwealth Games.
All major infrastructure projects are sub-contracted, which means that bigger firms who get contracts from government agencies further award the work to smaller contractors. "Considering that so many contractors are involved in executing a single project, the paperwork becomes lengthy.
Pinning down the actual culprits takes time, as it is difficult to ascertain at what level the fault occurred. For instance, it could either be at the planning or the execution level," said Rajan Bhagat, Delhi police spokesperson. Even if a contractor is held responsible for a structural collapse, he can just be booked for criminal negligence and other such milder sections of the IPC.
The Capital in the past two years has witnessed as many as three other major cases of structural collapse. But till date not a single arrest has been in any of the cases because of a convoluted procedure. On July 13, 2009, six persons were killed and seven injured when an under-construction bridge of Delhi Metro collapsed in the Zamrudpur area of South Delhi.
The police registered cases of negligence and hurt. The crime branch of the Delhi Police was handed over the investigation and a case was registered against the contractor Gammon India. But no one was arrested in the matter.
In 2008, two persons were killed and 14 injured when a segment on the then under-construction Laxmi Nagar stretch of Delhi Metro collapsed. Though investigations started, no arrests were made.
A case of negligence was registered. “These cases are under investigation. Arrests are made in such cases,” added Bhagat.