SHIMLA: Anguished over the status report filed by the state after 24 students of a Hyderabad engineering college were washed away in the Beas river following the negligence of hydropower project authorities, the Himachal Pradesh High Court Monday asked the divisional commissioner to appear personally in court.
A division bench comprising acting Chief Justice Mansoor Ahmad Mir and Justice Tarlok Singh Chauhan passed these orders after perusal of the status report.
Directing Divisional Commissioner Onkar Sharma to conclude the probe and submit his inquiry report in court by June 19, the bench said it was not satisfied with the status report.
"The status report does disclose the steps taken by the state to trace the bodies and have also tried to explain the cause of accident, but it leads nowhere," the bench said.
Impleading the V.N.R. Vignana Jyothi Institute of Engineering and Technology in Hyderabad as respondent in the case, the court also directed the Himachal Pradesh State Electricity Board Ltd. managing director, the superintending engineer (generation) and the resident engineer of Largi hydropower project, whose water was released in the river without warning, to remain present in court June 19, the next date of hearing.
It also asked them to file a detailed report as to how they are manning the barrage and dam and what is the mechanism and plan which they are following before discharge of water.
The high court, which treated a media report as public interest litigation, earlier directed the state to file a status report on the incident by June 16.
Taking serious note of the accident, the court June 9 said it was not only a case of callousness but also grave negligence.
"It's a sad tale by reason of the fact that sheer fun of the young students turned out to be fatal as a consequence of utter and callous negligence of the power project authorities," Justice Chauhan said.
"In case the water has been discharged without any warning as alleged, then prima-facie it is established that it is not only a case of callousness, but a case of grave negligence on the part of the project authorities," he observed.
In the status report the government said the cause of incident appeared to be sudden increased discharge of water into the river from the Largi hydropower barrage.
This apparently resulted in substantial increase in water flow in the river, which led to washing away of students. However, the exact cause will be known from the inquiry ordered into the incident, said the government.
The government said relief and rescue personnel of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Indo-Tibetan Border Police, the Sashastra Seema Bal and the army are involved. They comprised 44 divers, besides local rafters in search operations.
The status report said the Mandi deputy commissioner, who visited the site of the accident, reported that no warning system whatsoever was found installed at the site and there were no notice boards carrying warning messages. However, warning notice boards have been installed subsequently.
Meanwhile, the search operation to locate 16 missing students and a tour operator continued Monday. Only eight bodies have been found so far.