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Sunday, Sep 15, 2019

No one guilty? Overcrowding, forces of nature led to stampede at Elphinstone, say Mumbai cops

The Dadar police said there is no indication of negligence or foul play on part of any individual that may have led to the tragedy

mumbai Updated: Nov 29, 2017 10:11 IST
Debasish Panigrahi
Debasish Panigrahi
Hindustan Times
The Elphinstone Road stampede, which occurred on September 29, was one of the worst railway accidents in the city’s history, killing 23 people and injuring 38 others.
The Elphinstone Road stampede, which occurred on September 29, was one of the worst railway accidents in the city’s history, killing 23 people and injuring 38 others.(HT File)

After questioning more than 200 witnesses in the Elphinstone Road station stampede probe, the police have so far concluded the incident was purely an “accident accentuated mostly by the forces of nature and overcrowding”.

Two months after the incident, the Dadar police have not found any foul play or negligence on part of any individual that resulted in the massive tragedy in which 23 people were killed on September 29. A high-level inquiry committee of the Western Railway (WR) had also come to a similar conclusion earlier.

The committee had absolved its staff of any responsibility in the incident.

“We have not come across any instance of foul play or negligence by anyone that could have resulted in the tragedy,” a senior police officer of the Dadar police told HT. “Incessant torrential rain on that day had resulted in a swelling of stationary commuters on the staircase of the station’s foot overbridge, causing the stampede.”

“Then came the rumour-mongering,” the officer said. He said questioning of the witnesses — including commuters, railway officials, the Government Reserve Police (GRP) and Railway Protection Force (RPF) personnel — as well as feed from a solitary CCTV camera, ruled out any mischief, foul play or negligence, as suspected earlier.

Although conclusions have been drawn, the police are in no hurry to file a closure report as a public interest litigation (PIL) related to the mishap is pending for final hearing in the Bombay high court. “The court might issue some directions as we are one of the respondents in the case,” another senior Mumbai police officer said, on condition of anonymity.

The Dadar police had registered an accidental death report (ADR) in the case. While platforms come under the jurisdiction of the GRP, the foot overbridges fall under the jurisdiction of local police.

The investigation was primarily to find out whether the incident was an accident or any human error (or negligence) was involved, amid demands that those responsible be booked for culpable homicide.

A special team of the Dadar police had been formed, which had sent a set of questions to the railway authorities to explain in detail the steps initiated by the staff present at the railway station — as well as at the headquarters — to manage crowds at the station in order to prevent the chaos before disaster struck. The questionnaire was sent as per provisions under section 174 of the Code of Criminal procedure (CrPC), making the railway authorities legally bound to answer. Statements of several eye-witnesses and policemen, too, had been recorded.

First Published: Nov 29, 2017 10:08 IST