Sub: Proposed legislation for prevention of man-made tragedies in Public Places
Bhopal Gas Tragedy: Year 1984: over 10,000 dead.
Dabwali Fire Tragedy: Year 1995: 452 school-going children dead.
Uphaar Fire Tragedy Delhi: Year 1997: 59 dead and more than a hundred injured.
Fire tragedy at mental asylum, Erwadi: Year 2001: 25 dead
Kumbakonam School fire tragedy: Year 2004: 90 primary school children dead.
Victoria Park Fire tragedy, Meerut: Year 2006: 50 dead.
Different places, different tragedies – Apart from the number of casualties being different, there is one common thread that runs through each of the aforesaid mass tragedies that has rocked our nation in the last quarter of a century – all of them were man-made.
Each of the above occurrences represents man’s never-ending greed and/or intentional ignorance to public safety laws. They are also indicative of the fact that probably we have learnt nothing from these tragedies. It would be interesting to analyse as to what happened to the perpetrators of such unpardonable crimes. How many of them were punished and to what extent. The answer is bound to be shameful.
Under our prevalent system, such offenders are booked under section 304-A of the Indian Penal Code which translates into causing death due to rash and negligent act. It is by itself a mockery of our legal system that someone who causes the deaths of hundreds and thousands just to satiate his greed, is charged with only rashness and negligence. The irony of the situation is that even the said provision is classified as ‘bailable’, meaning thereby that unless an accused is convicted, there is no fear of his being incarcerated, irrespective of the number deaths he may have caused. Being a popular notion that criminal trials in our country never get over, still, if someone’s misfortune gets him convicted for the said offence, he need not worry as he is bound to get relief from the appellate courts, since the maximum imprisonment provided is a mere two years. In this grim scenario, incidents of such catastrophic magnitude are bound to recur since there is no legal deterrence that can instill fear in the minds of possible wrongdoers.
The need of the hour is to have an appropriate legislation to tackle such man-made calamities and put in place an appropriate investigative and judicial mechanism that compels future offenders to think twice before indulging in acts of omission or commission that can endanger human life. The legislation must prescribe the mandatory stipulations that need to be met with by owners, occupiers and/or builders of places inhabited and/or visited by public at large. Strict adherence to public safety norms and rules/regulations thereto, must be ensured through this legislation. Not only should adequate punishment be prescribed for the offenders but care must also be taken that the punishment is of such a nature and degree that it has the necessary preventive effect.
We also propose the formation of a National Public Safety Commission which already exists in many countries, if you are kind enough to give us an audience we are willing to make an appropriate presentation on the National Public Safety Commission already existing in countries like Canada, UK, Japan and South Korea.
We are sure that your goodself will be gracious enough to consider these suggestions and take requisite steps to put in place a proper mechanism which can hopefully prevent another man-made adversity.
on behalf of all the members of AVUT.
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