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Drowning of 7 students in Hirakud: Odisha court issues contempt notice to CS

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Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Apr 30:

A local court here on Wednesday issued a show-cause notice to Odisha Chief Secretary Gokul Chandra Pati for contempt of court over non-payment of compensation to seven engineering students who had drowned in Hirakud Dam Reservoir (HDR) 17 years ago.

Gokul C Pati, Chief Secretary, Odisha
Gokul C Pati, Chief Secretary, Odisha

In September last year, the Bhubaneswar civil judge court had directed the Odisha government to pay compensation of Rs 25 lakh to each deceased within three months. Admitting a contempt of court petition, the court has issued show-cause notice to the government to respond by 11 of next month and explain why it has failed to disburse the compensation amount to even six months after the verdict.

It may be recalled that on January 30, 1998, students of Burla Engineering College had gone inside the Mahanadi river near their hostel to click photographs to participate in photography contest in ‘Spring Festival’. In the meantime, the dam officials opened nine sluice gates to discharge flood waters from the Hirakud Dam Reservoir without warning catching the students completely unawares.

The group comprising seven students climbed atop a 15-feet high mound to get rid of the gushing waters. However, the water inundated the area within no time and the level of water rose to over 25 feet. The current of water swept away these seven students whose bodies were recovered four days after the drowning incident on February 2.

The family members of the deceased had approached the Odisha High Court for adequate compensation. The then chief justice had transferred the case to the civil judge court on August 8, 2001.

Adjudicating over the case, civil judge Sangram Keshari Patnaik on September 16 last year had directed the state government to pay a compensation of Rs 25 lakh to each family in addition to 6 percent annual interest retrospective from 2001 within three months. The verdict was delivered after 13 years of court battle.

As no compenstaion was paid even six months after thye verdict, the families of the deceased petitioned the court again and filed a contempt of court and an execution case against the state government. The petitioner urged the court to auction the government properties to realise the compensation amount to be paid to the victims.

Hearing the case, the Bhubaneswar senior civil judge served a show-case notice to the chief secretary to respond by May 11.

Lawyers Madhumadhab Jena, Siddharth Das and Bijay Patra were the counsels for the petitioners.