Writ Petition (Civil) No. 338 of 2006. Case: Sanjay Gupta Vs State of Uttar Pradesh. Supreme Court (India)

Case NumberWrit Petition (Civil) No. 338 of 2006
JudgesDipak Misra and V. Gopala Gowda, JJ.
IssueCommissions of Enquiry Act, 1952 - Sections 4, 8, 8A, 8B, 8C; Uttar Pradesh Fire Services Act, 1944; Cinematographic Act, 1952; Indian Penal Code (IPC) - Sections 304A, 337, 338, 427; Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) - Section 357; Cinematographic Rules, 1952; Delhi Building Regulations; Constitution of India - Articles 21, 32, 142, 226
Judgement DateJuly 31, 2014
CourtSupreme Court (India)


Dipak Misra, J.

  1. The 10th of April, 2006, the last day of the India Brand Consumer Show organized by Mrinal Events and Expositions at Victoria Park, Meerut, witnessed the dawn of the day with hope, aspiration, pleasure and festivity at the Victoria Park, Meerut, but, as ill-fortune (man made) would have it, as the evening set in, it became the mute spectator to a devastating fire inside the covered premises of the brand show area which extinguished the life spark of sixty-four persons and left more than hundreds as injured; and with the clock ticking, the day turned to be a silent observer of profused flow of human tears, listener of writhing pain and cry, and eventually, marking itself as a dark day of disaster in human history. Some, who were fortunate to escape death, sustained serious injuries, and some minor injuries. The cruelest day of April converted the last day of the festival of Consumer Show to that of a horrifying tragedy for the families of the persons who were charred to death, the victims who despite sustaining serious injuries did not fall prey to the claw of fatality, and the others, slightly fortunate, who had got away with minor injuries bearing the mental trauma. The dance of death, as it appears, reigned supreme and the cruel demon of injury caused serious injuries as well as minor injuries. The assembly of pleasure paled into total despair and before the people could understand the gravity of the tragedy, it was over, leaving the legal representatives who have lost their parents, or the parents who have forever been deprived of seeing their children, or the wives who had become widows within fraction of a minute, blaming and cursing the officials of the State Government. The contemporaneous history records it as "Great Meerut Fire Tragedy.

  2. After the tragedy paraded at the Victoria Park a First Information Report was lodged against the accused persons Under Sections 304A, 337, 338 and 427 of Indian Penal Code. The State Government, regard being had to the magnitude of the tragedy, vide notification No. 2155/p/Chh.p-3-2006-12(51)p/2006 dated 2.6.2006, appointed Justice O.P. Garg, a former Judge of Allahabad High Court, as one man Commission under the Commissions of Enquiry Act, 1952 (for short "the Act"). The Commission was required to submit the report in respect of four issues, namely:

  3. To find out the facts, causes on account of which the aforesaid accident occurred.

  4. To decide the ways and means to keep up the situation in control.

  5. In respect of the aforesaid occurrence, determination of liability and the extent thereof.

  6. Measures to be adopted to avoid the occurrence of such incident in future.

  7. Almost at the time the Commission was appointed, the present writ petition Under Article 32 of the Constitution was filed seeking the following reliefs:

    1. Pass appropriate writ, order or direction directing the Respondent No. 13, CBI to take up the investigation of the case FIR No. 95 of 2006, registered at Civil Lines, Meerut, UP, Under Section 304A/337/338/427, Indian Penal Code and investigate the case in accordance with law, and this Hon'ble Court may be pleased to monitor the investigation from time to time, to ensure that no person guilty of any of the offences is able to escape the clutches of law and that the investigation is carried out as expeditiously as possible in a free and fair manner.

    2. Pass appropriate writ, order or direction directing the State Government to initiate action against the erring administrative officers for their atrocious and negligent behavior while dealing with tragedy of this magnitude.

    3. Pass appropriate writ order or direction awarding damages against the Respondents, jointly and severally, to the Petitioners including all victims who lost their lives, the names and particulars of which, are given in Annexure P.6 for a sum of Rs. 106 crores (Rs. 20 lakhs for 53 dead) with the direction to equally distribute the same to the first degree heirs of all the victims evenly or in such manner as may be considered just and proper, by this Hon'ble Court.

    4. Award damages against the Respondents, jointly and severally, to the tune of Rs. 63 crores (Rs. 5 lakhs for 126 injured) to the injured whose names and addresses are mentioned in Annexure P-6 to be distributed evenly or in such manner as may be considered just and proper, by this Hon'ble Court.

    5. Award punitive damages against the Respondents to pay a sum of Rs. 50 crores jointly and severally for the purpose of setting up and augmenting the Centralized Accident and Trauma Services and other allied services in Western UP. Respondent No. 3, the District Magistrate may be directed to create a fund for the purpose and submit a detailed report to this Hon'ble Court in accordance with which the said services will be set up under the supervision of this Hon'ble Court.

    6. Pass appropriate writ, order or direction issuing guidelines to be followed by all, at the time of creating a temporary structure for organizing Seminars, Exhibitions etc.

  8. In course of hearing of the writ petition we have been apprised by Mr. Vikas Pahwa, learned senior Counsel that 64 persons have died in the incident and not 53. The said fact is not disputed by learned Counsel for the State. As the hearing progressed, this Court directed for filing of the translated copy of the relevant portion of the report of the commission as it had already been submitted to the competent authority. In compliance with the order learned Counsel for the State has brought on record the report dated 5.6.2007. On a perusal of the said report, we have found that the Commission has returned its findings in respect of all the aspects.

  9. Mr. Shanti Bhushan, learned senior Counsel appearing for Respondents 10 to 12, the organizers of the event, submitted that the Commission has fallen into grave error by not complying with Sections 8B and 8C of the Act as a consequence of which the said Respondents have been seriously prejudiced. It is his further preponement that they were only issued notices Under Section 4(a) of the Act, but that would not meet the requirement as mandated Under Sections 8B and 8C of the Act.

  10. To appreciate the said submission, it is apposite to refer to Sections 8, 8A, 8B and 8C of the Act. Section 8 provides for procedure to be followed by the Commission empowering it to have power to regulate its own procedure including the fixing of place and time of its sitting and deciding whether to sit in public or in private. Section 8A stipulates that the inquiry not to be interrupted by reason of vacancy or change in constitution of the Commission. Sections 8B and 8C on which emphasis has been placed by Mr. Shanti Bhushan need to be reproduced. They read as follows:

    8B. Persons likely to be prejudicially affected to be heard. - If, at any state of the inquiry, the Commission,-

    i. considers it necessary to inquire into the conduct of any person; or

    ii. is of opinion that the reputation of any person is likely to be prejudicially affected by the inquiry,

    the Commission shall give to that person a reasonable opportunity of being heard in the inquiry and to produce evidence in his defence:

    Provided that nothing in this section shall apply where the credit of a witness is being impeached.

    8C. Right of cross-examination and representation by legal practitioner. - The appropriate Government, every person referred to in Section 8B and, with the permission of the Commission, any other person whose evidence is recorded by the Commission,-

    (a) may cross-examine a witness other than a witness produced by it or him;

    (b) may address the Commission; and

    (c) may be represented before the Commission by a legal practitioner or, with the permission of the Commission, by any other person.

  11. It is submitted by Mr. Shanti Bhushan, learned senior Counsel, that no opportunity was given to the Respondents 10 to 12 to cross-examine the witnesses though they are directly affected by the said inquiry and the findings recorded by the Commission. It is canvassed by him that the notice that was sent to the said Respondents is basically Under Section 4(a) of the Act. To bolster his submission he has drawn our attention to the notices that have been sent by the Commission. We may fruitfully refer to one of the notices sent by the Commission to one of the organizers, namely, Lakhan Tomar, Respondent No. 10. The said notice reads as follows:

    Sh. Lakhan Tomar, (in Jail),
    Organizer, Consumer Show,
    Victoria Park,
    Superintendent, District Jail, Meerut,

    On 10th of April, a sad incident of massive fire occurred in the 3 Pandals of Brand Consumer Show at Victoria Park, Civil Lines area of police station, District Meerut. In order to ascertain the reasons, circumstances and fixing of responsibilities, the Government of Uttar Pradesh issued notification bearing No...

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