M A I N   N E W S

Fresh probe into Godhra fire ordered
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 2
In a far-reaching move, Railway Minister Laloo Prasad Yadav secured the approval of the Cabinet today for holding a fresh inquiry into the February, 2002, Godhra train fire by a retired Supreme Court Judge.

Justice U.C. Banerjee will be assisted by three experts of his choice, who will be from the fields of electrical engineering, mechanical engineering and fire services, besides a secretary to the committee.

The committee is required to submit its findings to the government on aspects pertaining to railway safety and system, upgradation of technology and preventive measures within three months.

Announcing the Cabinet decision to mediapersons here, Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said the committee would be empowered under Section 11 of the Commission of Inquiry Act, 1952, with all provisions of the said Act.

According to the eight point terms of reference, the committee would ascertain the precise cause of fire in coach S-6 of the 9166 Sabarmati Express on February 27 and to recommend suitable measures to prevent such incidents. The committee would ascertain the events, developments and circumstances that took place after the train left Muzaffarpur on February 25, 2002, and before it reached Godhra and beyond (including the states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh) and if those causes, individually or conjointly, contributed to the fire.

It would also ascertain why the said train, including the S-6 coach, was overcrowded with passengers, many of whom were without reservation, and if their behaviour in any manner contributed to the fire.

It would also find out if there was any wrongful act, neglect or default on part of the officials and workmen of the railway administration and its security staff. The committee would examine if any other probable internal and external factors or aggravating circumstances that might have led to the tragedy.

The committee would ascertain acts of commission and/or omission responsible for the cause of fire and fix responsibility for it, individually or collectively. It would also examine the adequacy of fire-retardant features of railway coaches and fire fighting measures in order to induct a superior technology and to suggest safeguards for preventing fire on trains and at railway stations.

The committee would also look into the preparedness and actual response with respect to rescue and relief operations in the S-6 coach and recommend measures for improving the quality of response in such situations.

Mr Yadav told mediapersons at a hurriedly convened Press conference here that the deadline for the completion of the inquiry report would be extended, if necessary, to get to the bottom of the truth. He said since he took over as Railway Minister, he had said there was confusion in the minds of the people about what led to the fire in Sabarmati Express.

The Railway Minister said the Commissioner of Railway Safety had failed in his duty to hold a statutory inquiry, as provided under Section 119 of the Railways Act, 1989, and the Railway Safety Commission Act.

Mr Yadav said the Gujarat State Forensic Science Laboratory had rebutted outrightly the stand of the BJP government in Gujarat, which maintained that the fire was set by a mob belonging to the minority community in Gujarat. He said the state CFSL said it was not scientifically possible to set the train on fire from outside and if petroleum inflammables were thrown from outside, the fire would have spread to other coaches also.

Sources in the Railway Ministry said a gazette notification would be issued by the government for appointing the committee. He said the committee would be appointed by an executive order of the government.

In mid-July, while replying to the debate on the Railway Budget in the Lok Sabha, Mr Yadav had announced a high-powered departmental inquiry into the train fire that led to communal violence in Gujarat. He had told the House that the inquiry would determine whether the fire was caused by short-circuit or had been schemed.


Godhra probe unconstitutional, says BJP
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 2
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) today termed as illegal and unconstitutional the decision of the Cabinet to appoint a second judicial commission to probe the Godhra massacre.

Denouncing the government decision, BJP spokesman Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi told mediapersons that it was politically motivated and illegal as a commission headed by Justice Nanavati was doing the job.

This was an irresponsible decision and would create tension in the country, Mr Naqvi said.

He said every decision of the 100-day-old United Progressive Alliance government seethed of revenge, be it removal of Governors appointed by the NDA government, rewriting of textbooks, removal of plaque containing the quote of Veer Savarkar or the arrest of former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Uma Bharti in a 10-year-old case involving the hoisting of the tricolour in Hubli.


Godhra accused sent to police custody

Ahmedabad, September 2
Godhra train carnage accused Ibrahim Samol alias Bhano, arrested by the Railway police yesterday, was today remanded to 14 days judicial custody by a POTA court here.

Special Judge S. G. Gokani passed the order when Ibrahim was produced in the court today.

The accused, the 100th person to be arrested in this case, was nabbed by a team, led by Mr J.S. Yadav, Sub-Inspector of the Godhra Railway Police Station, from his house in Vachala Odha area.

Chargesheets have been filed against 96 of these accused.

More than 30 accused were still absconding. UNI

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