KOCHI: The Kerala High Court has set aside the five-year rigorous imprisonment awarded to the boat driver in the Thattekkat boat tragedy under IPC section 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder). However, the court found him guilty of rash and negligent driving under section 304 A and sentenced him to twoyear rigorous imprisonment and imposed a fine of Rs 1.5 lakh. The court issued the order on an appeal filed by P M Raju, driver and owner of the boat involved in the tragedy which saw the death of 18 persons, including 15 children from St Antony’s UP School, Elavoor, in 2007.
HC said the accused, as an owner and driver, was the person directly in control of the navigation of the boat. He permitted 61 persons to board the boat, knowing fully well that the capacity was only six passengers. “If the accused permitted 61 persons to board the boat and navigated it through the waters of Periyar river having a depth of more than six metres, it bespeaks of a rash and negligent act,” the court said.
While setting aside the conviction by the Ernakulam Additional Sessions Court under section 304, HC observed that knowledge of a mere possibility that an act may cause death i s no t the knowl edg e envisaged. “The degree of knowledge required to bring an act within the realm of culpable homicide must be a knowledge that was almost on the verge of certainty and not a mere possibility. It cannot be held that the prosecution had proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused had knowledge that the death of the passengers will occur if the boat ride is taken. Accused is entitled to the benefit of the doubt in this regard,” the court held.