CHENNAI: More than a decade after the horrendous Kumbakonam school fire tragedy, in which 94 children were charred to death, a one-man commission of inquiry has recommended a compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the families of each victim.
The panel, headed by Justice K Venkataraman, retired judge of Madras High Court, was constituted by the State government following a direction from the High Court to decide the issue of compensation to the victims of the 2004 fire accident.
Justice Venkataraman submitted his report along with supporting documents to the Registrar General of Madras High Court on March 31 last.
Following a Supreme Court ruling, Justice Venkataraman observed that the compensation amount of Rs 5 lakh each will be just and reasonable to each of the parents/legal heirs of the deceased students.
He also fixed the liability to pay the compensation on the school, education department, the municipal authorities and the noon meal organiser and the cook as per the liability fixed on them. As it may take time, Justice Venkataraman said the TN government may pay the amount and recover the same from the five persons/ agencies, later. The amount will also carry an interest of 6 per cent from the date of filing the claim petitions, the commission said
The retired judge noted that the school authorities are in jail and they have no other property except the school premises. A fine had also been imposed on them by the criminal court. Hence, at present, they may not be able to pay their percentage of share in the compensation fixed by this commission.
As far as the educational authorities are concerned, the commission said the government should hold an enquiry as indicated by the earlier Justice K Sampath Commission and fix their liability.
As regards the injured children, the commission said it was very difficult to find out the injuries/scars at this later stage. Apart from Rs 25,000 already paid by the government, a reasonable amount of Rs 50,000 more has to be paid to them.
As far as Kowsalya, Mercy Angel Mary and B Vijay are concerned, the retired judge observed that justice will prevail if each of them is paid an amount of Rs 6 lakh as compensation.
Taking into consideration the poverty of Kowsalya, who is now studying in XII standard, the judge recommended that the government could conbtribute for her further education (at least for a Bachelor degree).
As far as Raghul, Divya and Rajkumar are concerned, it would be just and reasonable to pay a sum of Rs 5 lakh each, Justice Venkataraman added.
When the matter came up today, the first bench of Chief Justice SK Kaul and Justice MM Sundresh said the report be circulated to the counsel for parties and be also placed on record.
It posted the matter for issuing necessary directions on April 29.