THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Kerala police that boasts of excellence cuts a sorry figure when it comes to the Puttingal tragedy that took 110 lives. It is yet to file the chargesheet, even as it completes two years next week. It was on April 10, 2016, that the illegal firework competition as part of the annual festival of Puttingal Devi Temple at Paravur in Kollam turned into a major tragedy. Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi had rushed to the spot. Apart from killing so many devotees, over 350 suffered injuries, and many houses within several kilometres got damaged.
Despite the severity, the police seemed giving no priority to chargesheet and bring the culprits before the law. While pendency of some forensic reports and efforts to make the chargesheet foolproof are its official reasons for the inordinate delay, DC understands there were differences among top officials over implicating revenue and police officials. The police also seems awaiting Justice P. S. Gopinathan commission findings, said sources.
While chief minister's private secretary M. V. Jayarajan said the government would review reasons for the delay, state police chief Loknath Behera maintained that the police was trying to prepare a fool-proof chargesheet. "Some FSL reports are still pending," a police spokesman quoting him as saying. "The investigation team is also preparing the charge sheet by consulting a special counsel to ensure it's foolproof. I will be personally reviewing the progress." A Crime Branch team headed by SP D. Sreedharan (presently AIG Headquarters) has been probing the case.
The team in December 2016 itself decided to charge-sheet about 55 persons, which included the temple committee office bearers and firework contractors. They contended that since there was no criminal intent on the part of the revenue or police officials, they could not be charge-sheeted in the criminal case. But departmental action could be taken against the officials. The special prosecutor of the case Paripally Raveendran even cleared the charges to be framed. But following a DC report in this regard, then additional chief secretary (home) Nalini Netto (presently chief principal secretary to the chief minister) had written to Mr Behera in January last year that the Crime Branch should also probe the lapses on the part of the police.
However, she was silent on probing into any lapse in revenue officials. The directive assumed much significance as Ms Netto earlier had differences with Mr Behera's predecessor T. P. Senkumar in connection with the responsibility of the police and revenue officials. While Ms Netto recommended action against police officials, Mr Senkumar opposed it stating that police alone could not be held responsible....