Tragedy by fire: the SC asks the HC CJ to entrust the work of determining compensation to the bailiff

The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Chief Justice of the High Court of Allahabad to entrust a bailiff with the work of determining the compensation to be paid to the victims of the April 2006 fire in Meerut, which killed 65 people. and 161 injured.

The Supreme Court, while observing that the report of the one-man court-appointed commission which apportioned responsibility between the organizers and the state at 60:40 “suffers from no infirmity”, said that the high court will provide all necessary infrastructure to enable the judicial officer to perform his duties.

The High Court has rendered its judgment on a plea preferred by the victims of the tragedy of the fire, which occurred on April 10, 2006, during a show organized in Meerut.

A bench of Judges Hemant Gupta and V Ramasubramanian said that the amount of compensation payable to each of the victims, including the families of the deceased, has not been calculated and must be calculated in accordance with the principles of “just compensation” as in the case of an accident under the Motor Vehicle Act, 1988 by the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal. “We therefore request the Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court to entrust the work of determining compensation to a judicial officer at the rank of District Judge/Additional District Judge in Meerut within two weeks of the order of this court to work exclusively on the issue of day-to-day compensation determination,” the bench said in its 52-page verdict.

He said the designated court officer can authorize the parties to produce such evidence as may be authorized. “We hope the appointed bailiff will calculate the amount of compensation and forward the report to this court for consideration for compensation according to law,” the bench said and released the case after four months. .

The Supreme Court noted that the amount paid by the state and a sum of Rs 30 lakhs deposited by the organizers went to the victims. It observed that the said amount, excluding the ex gratia payments made, would be taken into consideration when determining the sum owed by the organizers and the State. The bench noted that Uttar Pradesh appointed a retired judge under the provisions of the Commission of Inquiry Act 1952 in June 2006 and the commission submitted its report in June 2007.

He noted that the report had not been deemed viable and that the Supreme Court, while dismissing the proceedings conducted by the commission under the Inquiry Act, had appointed Judge (Retired) SB Sinha in as a one-man commission which submitted its report in June 2015. 60:40. No dispute has been raised regarding the percentage of liability determined by either party to this proceeding,” the bench said.

He noted that under the terms of the supreme court order, the state paid Rs five lakh each to the deceased, Rs two lakh each to the victims with severe injuries and Rs 75,000 each to the victims with minor injuries, at except for the amount paid by the Centre.

He observed that an amount of Rs 30 lakh deposited by the organizers under the July 2014 order had already been sent to the District Judge, Meerut, for pro-rata distribution among the victims.

The bench said the appointment of the tribunal commissioner was to replace the commissioner appointed under the Public Inquiry Commissions Act, but that under the law the tribunal could not appoint a commissioner. “This power is conferred only on the executive and the legislature. Thus, the jurisdiction exercised to appoint Judge SB Sinha (retired) was vested in this court under Article 142 of the Constitution. He was a court commissioner to hear factual positions on remand issues,” he said.

The chamber noted that counsel for the organizers had raised a preliminary objection against the animation of the subpoena request regarding the “private law liability” of the organizers and argued that such liability does not fall within the scope of Article 32 of the Constitution.

Referring to several previous judgements, including the verdict in the Uphaar fire tragedy, he said that the precedents for the payment of compensation in a written petition under Article 32 fall into three categories of cases. The higher court said the first category is where acts of commission or omission are attributed to the state or its agents.

He said that the second category is where compensation has been awarded to a legal person who engages in an activity that may affect the life and health of people and that the third category includes cases where the liability for the payment of the compensation was divided between the state and the organizers of the function.

The bench said that after collecting the entrance fee, it was the responsibility of the organizers to ensure the safety and well-being of visitors. “The organizers failed in this obligation, causing the death of innocent victims who came to see the exhibition, which was purely a commercial event with the aim of generating profits for the organizers,” he noted.

The bench said that the commissioner of the court had rightly set the liability of the organizers at 60% and that due to negligence in the performance of statutory duties by the agents of the State, the State had been encumbered 40% of the total. responsibility.

(This story has not been edited by the Devdiscourse team and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

Maria D. Ervin