Father blames delay in getting justice and compensation granted by the court

Frustrated over the delay in getting justice or compensation for their son’s death, the parents of a crew member who drowned while trying to escape from tanker Pratibha Cauvery, which ran aground here during a cyclone on October 31 last year, committed suicide by hanging on Thursday night at their home in Puliyangulam in Arakkonam taluk of Vellore district.

N. Kothandapani (56) and his wife Bharathi (50), were the parents of K. Niranjan (25), who was among the six who died in an abortive bid to escape in the choppy waters. While 22 of the 37 crew members on board jumped into the sea and escaped in a lifeboat, five drowned as the lifeboat capsized. One of the remaining 17 died in hospital.

In a suicide note addressed to “judges”, Mr. Kothandapani said there was no justice for his family. No arrests had been made. “… nobody is there to save us. No money for treatment and no proper food, we became like beggars. So, we decided to end our life by hanging.”

And the hapless father had a final appeal. “At least, save the other five children’s parents.”

In the Madras High Court on Friday, their lawyer accused the court registry of delaying payment of compensation to the families of the victims, even though the shipping company had deposited Rs. 30 lakh on December 3 based on an interim order from the court, which had ordered disbursement of Rs.five lakh each the families.

The couple ended their lives on their wedding anniversary. Just when their lawyers were planning to file a contempt petition in the High Court to expedite implementation of the orders for payment of compensation.

Counsel S.Prabakaran told the court of Justice N.Paul Vasanthakumar that the order granting compensation to the victims’ families was crystal clear. Following the order, the family approached the Registrar-General and submitted a legal heirship certificate. When a question arose as to whether Rs. five lakh should be paid to the victim’s father or mother, the parents submitted an affidavit that the money be handed over to Mr. Kothandapani.

A letter was also given to the Registrar-General, G.Chockalingam, requesting him to implement the court order. The registry did not obey the court order, Mr. Prabakaran said. When the family was told that a contempt petition was to be filed, the parents asked whether court proceedings would have to be started again. Mr. Justice Vasanthakumar summoned Mr.Chockalingam, who came to the court.

Mr. Kothandapani’s request for donating their organs to the needy could not be carried out as the police got the information about their deaths late.

More In: Tamil Nadu | National