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Excerpts from the Justice U C Banerjee Committee report

Friday, 3 March 2006 - 11:23pm IST
This sequence is not possible in case the fire is caused by inflammable liquid thrown on the floor of the coach or an inflammable object thrown from outside the coach.

There has been a preponderance of evidence that the fire in coach No. S-6 originated in the coach itself without any external input. Moreover, the possibility of an inflammable liquid having been used is completely ruled out as there was first a smell of burning, followed by dense smoke and flames thereafter.

This sequence is not possible in case the fire is caused by inflammable liquid thrown on the floor of the coach or an inflammable object thrown from outside the coach.


On the basis of available evidence, the Committee has found it unbelievable that 'Kar Sevaks' (to the extent of 90 per cent of the total occupants) armed with "trishuls", would allow to get themselves burnt without a murmur by miscreant activity like a person entering S-6 coach from outside and setting the coach on fire. It has also noted the forensic laboratory's experiment and verified its conclusion that it was impossible to set fire to the train from the outside.


Some evidence of cooking inside the coach by Kar Sevaks was also given before the Committee. Moreover, the Committee has on the basis of evidence available on record found that the train left the platform at around 07.48 a.m. and stopped on account of vacuum failure in some coaches and the train started again at about 08.00 a.m.


Relying on the Survey of India Mapping of Distances and given the speed of the train at that time, the Committee noted that the engine ought to take about five minutes time to be near the post at 468/19 and the Guards' coach at 468/45. It is at this juncture that the smoke was not only noticed but had been reported to GRP, RPF and Vadodara Control. There was thus no scope for any miscreant activity from any external agency during this period.


With the elimination of the 'petrol theory', 'miscreant activity theory' as well as the ruling out of any possibility of 'electrical fire', the fire in S-6 coach of Sabarmati Express can at this stage be ascribed as an "accidental fire".


There has been failure on the part of the Commission of Railway Safety and Railway Administration to conduct a statutory inquiry into this accident. This was in breach of the Railway Act as well as the Accident Manual of the Zonal Railway.


The Railway Administration has also not made any concerted effort to preserve clues of the incident. In particular, the Committee has criticised the onward travel to Ahmedabad of S-7 coach despite some damage to it and despite it being a crucial piece of evidence.


In fact, the damaged portion of S-7 has been disposed of as scrap. It has severely criticised the entire hierarchy of Western Railway in pre-judging the issue by describing the incident of fire as a miscreant activity without conducting even a preliminary inquiry.




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