NEARLY NINE years after two merchant ships collided near the Mumbai coast causing an oil spill, the captain of one of the ships booked for causing environmental damage was acquitted by a metropolitan magistrate’s court on Thursday. Laxman Dubey, the captain of merchant vessel, Khalijia III, was acquitted of all charges, including those under the Environment Protection Act, by the Ballard Pier metropolitan magistrate.
In 2012, the court had framed charges against Dubey, following which he faced a trial for over six years. Dubey had claimed before the court that he had been falsely implicated in the case with the investigation stating that the investigating official had “misrepresented” facts against him. According to the FIR filed by the Yellow Gate police station on August 7, 2010, a collision took place between Khalijia III and MSC Chitra, carrying 2,662 tonne furnace oil, 88 tonne lube oil, 284 tonne diesel and 1,219 cargo containers, of which 31 containers contained hazardous chemicals.
The incident took place while Chitra was coming out of Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust and Khalijia was moving towards it. Due to the collision, Chitra suffered major damage in the middle portion causing a major oil spill in the restricted area of the Mumbai harbour. The prosecution, led by M S Chaudhari, had examined 16 witnesses, including an official of the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB). The MPCB officials had taken 1,200 samples from 23 places and concluded that pollution was caused in the sea.
Dubey’s advocate Arpan Rajput had submitted to the court that on the day of the incident, both ships were on sea route, channel number 12, and required to communicate with each other through the Vessel Traffic Management System. He stated that Chitra had not responded to the wireless messages, due to which its movement could not be located. The captain of Chitra, Mingelino Martin, was made a witness in the case. During his cross-examination, it was stated that a marine enquiry report had recommended his certificate to be suspended, pointing to his fault.
“It has taken nine years for my innocence to be proved. I would say that it is too late. But I am glad that it was proven,” 59-year old Dubey said. Dubey was also acquitted of other charges under the IPC.