Nearly six years after a New Year party turned into a tragedy, when a wooden stage installed above a swimming pool in a city hotel collapsed, leading to the death of three young revellers, a magistrate court here on Tuesday absolved the managing director of Savera Hotels and five others of the charge of causing death by negligence.

The court acquitted all the six after several witnesses turned hostile during the trial.

At the party to usher in 2008, over 700 people were dancing on the makeshift stage.

Just a few minutes before midnight, the wooden planks collapsed and nearly 70 persons fell into the pool.

K. Ananthavel, XVIII Metropolitan Magistrate, Saidapet, said the prosecution failed to prove the charges against the accused beyond reasonable doubt.

“As several prosecution witnesses turned hostile, doubts have arisen about the prosecution case itself. The benefit of doubt has to be given to the accused in the interest of justice,” he said.

Noting that the investigation was conducted by two different officers, the court said the prosecution failed to explain why the investigation officer was changed.

In the accident on the night of December 31, 2007, a 24-year-old software professional died, while a 21-year-old youth and his 20-year-old female cousin succumbed to injuries in hospital.

The police registered a case of negligence against the event manager, stage contractor and the hotel authorities.

The police arrested some of them and they were charged under Section 304A (causing death by a rash or negligent act) and 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt).

B.V.S. Reddy, managing director of Savera Hotels Public Ltd, A. Michael Lazarus, an event manager, S.Ramakrishnan, a hotel engineer, D.Sampath, bar manager, Narender Peer Singh, stage contractor, and K.Ravi, a contract employee, were cited as accused in the case.