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Mehrangarh fort tragedy of 2008: HC seeks Chopra panel report in sealed cover

Two hundred and sixteen people had died in a stampede on the first day of Navratra on September 30, 2008 at Mehrangarh Fort

jaipur Updated: Apr 23, 2018 22:08 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Jodhpur
Mehrangarh stampede,Justice Chopra commission
Mehrangarh fort in Jodhpur.(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The Rajasthan High Court on Monday directed the Rajasthan government to submit in a sealed envelope the Justice Jasraj Chopra Commission report on the 2008 Mehrangarh Temple tragedy.

Two hundred and sixteen people had died in a stampede on the first day of Navratra on September 30, 2008 at Mehrangarh Fort. They had, along with thousands of others, queued up to pay obeisance to the goddess Chamunda.

The then BJP government had in October 2008 constituted a commission headed by Justice Jasraj Chopra to investigate into the cause of the stampede and fix responsibility. The commission submitted its report in May 2011 during the Congress rule and since then, the report has been gathering dust. The government is yet to make the report public.

The division bench of Justice Gopal Krishan Vyas and Justice Ramchandra Singh Jhala also directed the state government to submit on May 23 — the next date of hearing —what action it has taken on the report of the cabinet sub-committee that is studying the Chopra Commission report.

The bench was hearing a petition filed by Manaram, secretary of the Mehrangarh Dukhantika Sangharsh Samiti. The Samiti had been demanding from the state government to make the report public.

Following a court order, the state government had on April 14 constituted a cabinet sub-committee headed by home minister Gulab Chand Kataria to study the Chopra commission report. The sub-panel has been given a month’s time to submit its report advising the government on the recommendations in the Chopra commission report that need to be adopted and implemented.

During the hearing, additional advocate general (AAG) PR Singh told the court that the state government had already constituted a state-level fair authority on the basis of the Chopra Commission report. The 21-member authority, headed by the state tourism minister, would work to ensure safety and security during various fairs.

Petitioner’s counsel, Vijay Mehta, however contended that the state government had formed the cabinet sub-committee only after the high court issued a notice. “The public wants to know the reasons behind the Mehrangarh temple tragedy and who was responsible for it,” Mehta said and requested the court to summon the report to study the findings and recommendations of the Chopra Commission.

Justice Vyas directed the AAG to submit the Chopra Commission report in a sealed envelope so that its secrecy remains intact. The court also sought the details of the action taken by the government on the recommendation of the sub-panel.

The AAG had during the last hearing told the court that as per section 3 of the Inquiry Commission Act, the Rajasthan government was not bound to make the report of any commission public.

As the chairman of the commission, Justice Chopra had visited all major religious festivals of the country to see the arrangements there and incorporate suggestions in his report. The commission that was asked to submit its report in three months (December 2008), was granted six extensions.

First Published: Apr 23, 2018 22:08 IST