Jaundice outbreak: Himachal high court widens probe scope

Shimla, March 3 (IANS) The Himachal Pradesh High Court on Thursday widened the scope of investigation into administrative negligence, if any, that led to the outbreak of jaundice in the state capital.

Hearing the case, a division bench of Chief Justice Mansoor Ahmad Mir and Justice Tarlok Singh Chauhan directed the special investigating team (SIT), constituted by the state, to investigate jaundice outbreak in Solan district too and submit a report.

The authorities in Solan are directed to report as to how many deaths have occurred so far in the district due to jaundice, said the bench.

It also directed the state to deposit within four weeks the amount of compensation to be disbursed to the families of those who died of the water-borne disease.

In its last hearing on February 25, the high court not only pulled up top government functionaries for their apparent lapses in dealing with the outbreak of jaundice but also awarded an interim compensation of Rs.2 lakh to the next of kin of the deceased.

The high court is hearing the matter as a public interest litigation (PIL) by taking suo motu notice of media reports regarding contamination of drinking water in Shimla.

The next hearing is scheduled for March 28.

The bench asked the state as to what action has been taken against the additional chief secretary and secretary (irrigation and public health) and other officers who were responsible for supplying drinking water from September 18, 2014, onwards.

The court noted that the Ashwani Khad water treatment station, which supplies water to one-third of Shimla’s population, is highly contaminated.

Official sources told IANS that more than 1,500 cases of jaundice, including among senior government officials, have been reported in Shimla and 12 people have lost their lives to the disease.

Patients suffering from the water-borne disease were also reported from Solan town, which was located in the downstream of Ashwani Khad.

The bench directed state Pollution Control Board member-secretary Vineet Kumar to be present in the court on the next hearing.

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