The Sindhudurg police have registered a case on charges of negligence and endangering life and safety of others against a Goa-based company after its life raft strayed into the Vijaydurg creek near Khavshi village on April 30, sending coastal security agencies into a tizzy.
The police have booked five people, including the company’s director, vice-president and three caretakers, for their alleged irresponsible behaviour.
The life raft was aboard merchant vessel Olympic Argentina, which is owned by the Salgaocar Mining Industries Pvt Ltd, Goa. Officials said the vessel had been anchored at a nearby port for the past five years. The raft was one of the four on board the vessel.
Those booked have been identified as Arjun Salgaocar, director, Mukesh Saglani, vice-president and caretakers Naushad Kazi, Mushtaq and Asad Dhopaokar.
Investigators said the case would attract more sections of special laws after the Maharashtra Maritime Board (MMB) and Customs submit their reports. “We have registered a case under the IPC and after the regional port officer and Customs submit reports, more sections will be added. We have recorded statements of the caretakers and a police team will go to Goa soon to record statements of the accused,” said Vinita Sahu, additional superintendent of the Sindhudurg police.
After the raft was spotted, the Sindhudurg police, along with the Coast Guard and the National Investigation Agency (NIA) launched a probe to find out its antecedents. After eatables and water pouches were found on the raft, the agencies suspected unknown people had travelled via sea and entered the state.
Soon, a red alert was declared along the coastal villages in Sindhudurg and neighbouring districts, and special anti-terror cell (ATC) teams of the local coastal police began a combing operation in the villages, to find out new visitors. A bomb detection and disposal squad from Ratnagiri checked the raft, but no explosives were found.
After the raft was traced to the Olympic Argentina vessel, a team headed by coastal security officer Vijay Kharat went to Goa to verify the same.
When the police recorded statements of Kazi, Mustaq and Asad, they learnt the company had hired Kazi to keep a watch on the vessel. However, he in turn hired two caretakers and none of them checked if things on the vessel were in place. According to norms, local police have to be intimated if a raft or barge falls from a vessel. The cops are to alert Coast Guards across the world to avoid a security scare.
A case under sections 285 (negligent conduct with respect to fire or combustible matter), 287 (negligent conduct with respect to machinery), 290 (public nuisance), 336 (act endangering life or personal safety of others) and 34 (acts of common intention) have been registered against the five persons and a further probe is underway.