SC sets up panel to investigate Meerut fire

New Delhi, Aug 01 (IANS): The Supreme Court Thursday appointed Justice (retd.) S.B. Sinha as one-man commission to inquire into the 2006 fire tragedy at a consumer exhibition in Uttar Pradesh's Meerut that left 64 people dead and hundreds injured.

A bench of Justice Dipak Misra and Justice V. Gopala Gowda asked Justice Sinha to submit the report by Jan 31, 2015.

Setting aside the report of the earlier commission set-up by the state government, the court said: "We cannot comatose our judicial conscience to the plights of the victims who have approached this court."

Having regard to the "a gravity of the situation and the magnitude of the tragedy, on due deliberation we appoint Justice S.B. Sinha, formerly a judge of this (apex) Court, as the one man commission."

In the meantime, as an interim measure, the court directed the Uttar Pradesh government to give a compensation of Rs.5 lakh each to the families of the dead, Rs.2 lakh each to the those who suffered serious injuries and Rs.75,000 each to those who suffered minor injuries.

Justice Misra pronouncing the judgment said: "As we find, there has been statutory violations and negligence on the part of the authorities in not taking due care while granting permission and during the exhibition was in progress, we intend to direct payment of compensation, by way of interim measure, by the state."

The court directed the Uttar Pradesh government to deposit the compensation amount with the district judge of Meerut within two months.

"The district judge may nominate an additional district judge, who, on making summary enquiry, shall pay the amount to the legal representatives and the victims," the court order said.

Holding the victims and their families should get some compensation, the court said: "The question that we would like to pose is whether this court should wait for the commission's report and then direct the state government to pay the amount of compensation to the grieved and affected persons, who have been waiting for the last eight years, or should they get certain sum till the matter is finalized."

"The principle of apportionment can be thought of only after the commission's report is received, but, a pregnant one, the victims and the families cannot be left on the lurch," it said.

The incident relates to April 10, 2006 devastating fire inside the covered premises of the India Brand Consumer Show organized by Mrinal Events and Expositions at Victoria Park.

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