J. Venkatesan

The incident was due to the sheer negligence of officials, says Bench

This is not the first time that such an incident has happened in Tamil Nadu The stampede was a result of rumours spread by Dhanasekaran: State counsel

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday squarely blamed the Tamil Nadu Government for the stampede in Chennai on December 18 last year, in which 42 persons were killed while trying to get flood relief tokens.

A Bench of Justice K. G. Balakrishnan and Justice P. P. Naolekar told senior counsel for Tamil Nadu K.T.S. Tulsi: "The incident was due to the sheer negligence of your officers. This is not the first time that such an incident has happened in Tamil Nadu. It is happening repeatedly in Tamil Nadu for such a petty thing."

Plea dismissed

The Bench was dismissing a Special Leave Petition filed by the State Government against a Madras High Court order granting bail to DMK councillor K. Dhanasekaran, an accused in the case.

When Mr. Tulsi said the stampede was caused because of the rumour spread by Dhanasekaran that tokens would be distributed, the Bench said: "Rumour means there is no source. Is it possible to say that rumour by itself is the cause for stampede? Do you mean to say that everything happened because of Dhanasekaran and few others? The 42 persons died because of the negligence of your officers, who went ahead without making any preparation for the distribution of the relief. The State is responsible for this. You can't pass on the buck on somebody. We will not interfere with the High Court order."

In its SLP, the State Government said the DMK councillor and a few others were arrested on the charge of spreading the rumour and causing the stampede. Dhanasekaran was granted bail by the Madras High Court on January 5. The Government detained him under the Goondas Act even before the High Court could pass order on the bail petition. However, notwithstanding his detention under the Goondas Act the State preferred an appeal in the apex court seeking cancellation of the bail.

"Result of rumour"

Mr. Tulsi asserted that the stampede and the deaths were a direct result of the respondent spreading the rumour. The High Court failed to appreciate that the councillor knew that people would believe his words and act in a manner in which the end result would be a stampede.