Mumbai: A court has denied bail to three office-bearers of Barge P-305 that sank in the Arabian Sea during Cyclone Tauktae in May. The court said the scale of damage, wherein 71 persons died, five sustained injuries and six went missing in high seas, must be considered.
Manager Prasad Rane, director Nitinkumar Singh and technical superintendent Akhileshwar Tiwari of Papa Shipping Company had sought bail on the grounds that they were not on board, but at the base and were not getting weather updates. They blamed the barge master, who was one of the victims in the incident, and the firm Afcons that owned the barge, as they received weather updates. They had also claimed that culpability, if any, is also of ONGC that granted permission to anchor the barge 175 mt away from the platform.
Additional Sessions Judge Deepak L Bhagwat said in his order that the death is of high scale and the offence “extremely grave”. The judge said that all the circumstances at the stage show that the applicants, though high-positioned and responsible officers, were callous in their absolute and high duty to protect the lives of their crew members who were working in highly dangerous and hazardous operations at high seas. The court said that it appears their negligence was with the knowledge in the background of the cyclone that there is likelihood of death of the crew members.
It said the applicants wilfully ignored the gravity of the cyclone when the barge master’s decision was nothing but completely wrong and not merely an error of judgment, in the light of the fact that all other barges had returned. This is more so, it said, when the barge master had decided to return but for a decision made in a meeting to avoid financial expenditure by keeping it stationed in high seas. It noted that statements of witnesses showed the substandard quality of life-saving equipment.
“The applicants being related to the operations concerned cannot claim ignorance of the alerts issued,” the court said, adding that it was their high duty to call back the crew members when the alerts were issued.
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