Kerala HC to oversee police probe into temple disaster

Kochi, April 14 (IANS) The Kerala High Court on Thursday accepted the state government’s request to oversee the ongoing crime branch probe into the ‘illegal’ fireworks display at the Puttingal Devi temple in Kollam which led to a blaze that left 114 people dead and over 350 injured.

The request was accepted by the division bench of Justice Thottathil B. Radhakrishnan and Justice Anu Sivaraman, which had Tuesday, come down heavily on Kerala Police for not preventing the Kollam deaths, after they taking up a letter written to the high court registrar by their colleague Justice V. Chitambaresh, as a public interest litigation.

The bench, after taking into account the seriousness of the issue, decided to have a special sitting on Thursday, despite being a public holiday on account of Vishu.

The Kerala government informed the court that the present crime branch probe is headed by additional director general of police S.Ananthakrishnan, who has an exemplary track record, and it is their wish that the high court oversees it.

Accepting the request, the court asked the probe officer to submit its report on May 18, when the court resumes its sitting after summer recess.

Presiding over an all-party meeting in Thiruvananthapuram, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said his government was not averse to a probe by any central agency but it would be advisable to go forward with this crime branch probe, with the high court overseeing it.

“In case a CBI probe is announced, then it will take at least 2 to 3 weeks time before it actually begins. Already the present probe has arrested 13 people and they are doing a good job. We have also informed the high court that, if at any point of time, they feel, the ongoing probe is having a problem, they can announce any probe by any agency and we will fully cooperate with it,” he told reporters after the meeting.

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