SC dismisses plea against Belgaum factory officials for death of 16 workers

SC dismisses plea against Belgaum factory officials for death of 16 workers

SC dismisses plea against Belgaum factory officials for death of 16 workers
The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a plea by the Karnataka government for prosecution of two officials of a factory at Belgaum for their alleged negligence resulting into explosion and fire that claimed lives of 16 people and left 19 others with grievous injuries in 2007.

A bench of Justices S A Bobde and L Nageswara Rao said the two officials were merely production manager and micro-biologist in the factory and there has already been their prosecution under the Factories Act and they cannot now be tried under the Indian Penal Code for the same offence.

“They don't appear to be people in charge. There can't be double prosecution. What would happen to Article 20 (protection of certain rights in case of conviction of offences),” the bench said.

Advocate Joseph Aristotle, appearing for the state government, submitted that it was not a case of double jeopardy and there is no double prosecution. He said 16 people had died in the incident and the officials cannot be let off.

The court, however, seemed unconvinced, and rejected the state's special leave petition filed against the HC's order of February 18, 2016.

The HC had quashed the criminal prosecution of Rana Ajay Kumar Singh, production manager and Krantik Prasul Kumar Das, micro-biologist of M/s Riddi Siddi Factory, Gokak Belgaum, saying that they have already pleaded guilty in the proceedings initiated under the Factories Act and suffered an order of conviction and sentence on February, 7, 2013 wherein they have paid fine of Rs1,87,500.

The HC also held that they cannot be made to undergo punishment for the same offence for second time.

The fire accident has taken place due to negligence on the part of one of the victims as one of them lighted beedi without realising its consequences in the enclosed area namely "C" drier section where combustible gas and other substances were present. Further it is seen that there is no accusation of lacuna in taking primary precaution to ensure arrest of spread of fire on behalf of the petitioners who were manager and occupier of the factory, the HC had said.

“None of the act which has caused death and injuries people, working in the instant time are attributable to the petitioners either by act of animus or mental status of mens rea in causing the said accident,” the HC had said.