In what is seen as a knee-jerk reaction, police take action even before cause of mishap at metro rail site is established

TP Chatram police on Thursday arrested two persons, including a Larsen & Toubro manager, in connection with the metro rail site accident on Wednesday that killed one worker and injured six others.

The arrested were Kanagaraj (32), manager of L& T, residing in Nolambur, and Rajesh (35), deputy project manager at the site, who is employed with an Andhra Pradesh-based construction firm.

A case was registered under Sections 304 A (causing death by negligence), 287 (negligent conduct with respect to machinery), 337 (causing hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others) and 338 (causing grievous hurt by act endangering life) of IPC.

Police is in pursuit of the operator of the crane, Amilesh Yadav, who is absconding. “We will certainly get him by Friday morning,” an officer said.

Kanagaraj and Rajesh were produced before a magistrate at the Egmore Court on Thursday and later released on bail. A large posse of media persons were present on the court premises but lawyers and company representatives prevented lensmen from taking any photographs.

On how these men were arrested even before the actual cause of the accident could be established, a senior police officer said, the legal principle of “vicarious liability” applied in such accidents.

“The contractors, supervisors or others in charge of the work, where an accident has occurred, are responsible for faulty machinery or any other snag that might have led to the death of a worker. They have failed to inspect the machinery and ensure it is in good working condition,” an officer said

However, Chennai Metro Rail Limited (CMRL) has not ruled out a machine error or metal fatigue — structural damaged caused by repeated loading — in its probe into the cause of the accident. Holding the crane operator and managers responsible at this stage would be unfair, according to legal experts.

S. Nagashaila, advocate specialising in labour law, said arrest ought to be the last resort — when police fear that suspects may tamper with evidence or go missing. “The Supreme Court has also reiterated this from time to time. But, the police’s knee-jerk reaction in such cases has created a sort of fear psychosis.”

Observing that the crane operator was absconding, perhaps out of fear, she said: “The police fail to see that such a response only hampers further investigation.” If it was a complete machine error, the operator or the managers may not be directly responsible, Ms. Nagashaila said.

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