2012 factory collapse: Court says SIT probe inadequate

  • Ravinder Vasudeva, Hindustan Times, Jalandhar
  • Updated: Jan 31, 2016 12:29 IST
The blanket factory collapse resulted in the death of 23 labourers in Jalandhar in 2012. (HT File Photo)

With the prosecution failing to produce sufficient evidence, the court of additional chief judicial magistrate gave the “benefit of doubt” to Shital Vij and four others in the blanket factory collapse that resulted in the death of 23 labourers in 2012.

In a copy of the judgment, the court of Deepak Kumar Chaudhary has raised concerns as why the special investigating team (SIT) failed to establish the reason behind the presence of a ditch machine in the factory on the day of the accident.

The court also remarked that when the prosecution maintained that the digging work behind the building was carried out by sewerage department, why the SIT did not question any official concerned.

The SIT, headed by then additional deputy commissioner of police (ADCP headquarters) Navjot Mahal, had investigated the incident with the then assistant commissioner of police (ACP) Balkar Singh and SHO Bimal Kant as its members.

Right from the beginning, there was allegations that the SIT was not investigating the case properly and was allegedly trying to shield the accused in the case.

As per the prosecution, the building had caved in due to digging but Balkar Singh, who had inspected the spot, does not say anything as who had hired the machines and who was operating the machines, the judgment says.

“The silence of Balkar Singh on this crucial aspect warrants an adverse inference to be drawn against the prosecution and it could not be ascertained if Vij had hired those machines as per the prosecution,” reads the 40-page judgment.

The court has also nailed the lie of the SIT which submitted that samples of construction material were taken from the debris and were sent for examination.

“There is nothing on record to suggest that the samples were ever evaluated for quality control. No witnesses from the factory ever found that the building was unfit or unsafe. There is nothing on ground to suggest if the accused could be held negligent for the quality of the construction of the factory,” the judgment further says.

The court also concluded that the SIT has not discussed the consequences of digging by the sewerage department and has not shed light on the extent of damage and contributory factor of the digging that led to the fall of the building.

“Two SIT members categorically stated that digging by the sewerage department was also a factor in caving in of the building but the failure of the agency to investigate this aspect has not been explained,” it reads.

The court said the SIT is totally silent on digging activity by sewerage department to lay a storm channel near the factory.

“The officials of the sewerage department were expected to be examined for that if the digging near the factory was done by taking adequate safety measures. There is no mention who was the person under whose supervision the digging took place. The prosecution has not adduced any such evidence on record,” said the court.

The court concluded that since the prosecution failed to drive home the guilt of the accused beyond a reasonable doubt the accused are acquitted giving them the benefit of doubt.

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