The Himachal Pradesh High Court on Monday took suo motu action over the washing away of 25 engineering students from Hyderabad in the Beas in Mandi district on Sunday.

The Vacation Bench of Justice Tarlok Singh Chauhan directed the State to ensure immediate assistance to their families and see that such accidents did not recur.

The court passed the order on a newspaper report of the accident that took place after water was released from the Larji hydel project into the river without warning. The students were on excursion to Manali.

The court said that going by the report, sheer fun of the young students turned out to be fatal as a consequence of the utter and callous negligence of the power project authorities.

In case the water had been discharged without any warning as alleged, then it was prima facie not only a case of callousness but also a case of grave negligence.

It could not even be said to be an error of judgment or accident as the authorities had the duty to have at least issued a warning and blared the siren, as was the common practice. Therefore, the project authorities had prima facie displayed callous and wanton disregard to their duties.

Status report

Taking into consideration the gravity of the situation, the State was ordered to file a status report latest by June 16, giving special reference to the cause of the accident and the details of the relief-and-rescue steps and place on record instructions on the procedure to be observed before the discharge of water.

The court ordered the State to give details of the warning system found installed on the site, including, and not restricted to, sirens and boards carrying messages of warning. It should place on record the steps taken to ensure that such accidents did not recur.

The State and other respondents should, meanwhile, render all possible help and assistance to locate and trace the missing students. The respondents should ensure that the bodies were handed over with dignity and respect to the parents and guardians and adequate arrangements made for transporting them to their homes.

The State, if need be, should take the assistance of civic, paramilitary and military authorities to trace the missing students and take follow-up action.

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