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Gujarat boat tragedy: High Court seeks 'action taken' report from state govt by January 29

The police have so far arrested six persons, while efforts are on to nab the others, an official had said earlier.

Edited By: Hritika Mitra @MitraHritika Ahmedabad Published on: January 21, 2024 22:02 IST
Gujarat Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) team inspects the
Image Source : PTI Gujarat Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) team inspects the site where a boat carrying school students capsized in a lake in Vadodara.

The Gujarat High Court has directed the state government to submit an action taken report on the death of students and teachers in a recent boat tragedy, observing that it has “shocked the conscience” of the public.

As many as 12 students and two teachers of New Sunrise School at Waghodia near Vadodara drowned, while 18 students and two teachers were rescued after an overloaded boat capsized in Motnath Lake in Harni area on the city’s outskirts on Thursday. The students were on a picnic at the time.

Taking suo motu cognisance of the incident, the court of Chief Justice Sunita Agarwal said in an order on January 19 observed that it was disturbing to note that safety norms were completely flouted as the children were not provided life jackets. The order, which was made available on the court’s website on Sunday, said that the incident has “shocked the conscience of the public in general”.

“We call upon the secretary, home department, state of Gujarat, to submit an action taken report in the matter along with an affidavit of the gazetted officer from the home department, government of Gujarat, by the next date fixed,” the order said. The court has fixed January 29 as the next date of hearing.

On Friday, the president of the Gujarat High Court Advocates' Association, Brijesh Trivedi had brought to the notice of the court news reports regarding the Harni boat tragedy. The police have registered an FIR under sections 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) and 308 (attempt to commit culpable homicide) of the Indian Penal Code against 19 persons.

They have so far arrested six persons, while efforts are on to nab the others, an official had said earlier. In its complaint, the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) has said that the firm which developed, operated and maintained the lakefront for recreational purposes, its owners, managers and boat operators indulged in criminal negligence on several counts.

VMC pointed to lapses, including non-maintenance of boats and not keeping an adequate number of life-saving equipment and life jackets, on the part of the contractor. It was also revealed that only a few students were given life jackets and no instructions were given to them. Due to overload, the FIR said, the boat first started swaying and then capsized following water ingress from the front side.

Among those booked are officials of Kotia Projects, which had been given the contract to operate the Harni Lake Zone by the VMC under public-private partnership (PPP) model.

While VMC has terminated the contract of Kotia Projects, officials have found that it had sub-let the contract for boating activities to another company. According to police, the boat operator had no prior experience and his helper did not even know how to swim.

ALSO READ | Gujarat: 14 children, two teachers dead after boat capsizes in Vadodara's Harani lake

ALSO READ | Gujarat: Three held by police in Vadodara boat capsize incident, Congress demands probe

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