In a major relief for former Tata Steel joint managing director and Tata Sons director JJ Irani, the Supreme Court on Friday quashed criminal proceedings in a 25-year-old fire case in Jamshedpur where 60 persons were killed and 113 injured.
Irani retired recently from the Chairmanship as well as the Directorship of Kansai Nerolac Paints.
The apex court bench comprising Justices S J Mukhopadhaya and S A Bobde set aside the high court order, allowing initiation of criminal proceedings before the chief judicial magistrate in Jamshedpur.
Irani and other senior officers of the company had challenged the Jharkhand High Court order that allowed three criminal revisions filed by the state government and remitted the case back to the CJM in July to proceed in accordance with law.
The high court, in its order, had observed that the provision of limitation (i.e. filing the case within 90 days) had nothing to do with the fire incident and hence the CJM should resume hearing the cases.
The cases were filed soon after the inquiry report by the chief inspector of factories came, the high court had stated, while adding the probe panel had said that the fire was due to lack of preventive measures on the factory premises.
Tata Steel, on the other hand, had challenged the state government’s cases on three grounds. First, the provisions of the Factories Act, 1948, do not allow the filing of a complaint beyond 90 days of the incident.
Second, the incident did not occur in the factory as such where the manufacturing was going on. Third, it was a mere accident and not an act of negligence on the part of the Tata Steel management, his counsel had argued.
A fire broke out in a pandal on March 3, 1989, where company officials had assembled along with their families to celebrate Founder’s day. The fire led to death of 60 people and maimed more than 100.
Victim told the judge that she was being forced to relive the incident as she was made to appear in court again.