Balasore train accident: CBI chargesheet against three rail officials
The CBI has arrested senior section engineer Arun Kumar Mahanta, senior section engineer Amir Khan and technician Pappu Kumar, citing culpable homicide and evidence tampering
The CBI on 2 September filed a charge-sheet against three arrested Railways officials in the 2 June Balasore train accident case for alleged culpable homicide not amounting to murder and causing disappearance of evidence, the agency said. The CBI had arrested senior section engineer (Signals) Arun Kumar Mahanta, senior section engineer (in Soro) Amir Khan and technician Pappu Kumar, all posted in Balasore district, on 7 July in connection with its probe in the accident involving three trains which left 296 people dead and over 1,200 injured.
The accident took place when the Coromandel Express crashed into a stationary freight train at Bahanaga Bazar station in Balasore and some of its derailed coaches fell onto the adjacent tracks and collided with the oncoming Yeshwantpur-Howrah Express.
In its charge sheet filed before special judicial magistrate in Bhubaneswar, the CBI mentioned that based on evidence adduced during the investigation, commission of offence under Indian Penal Code Section 304 part II (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), Section 34 read with 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence with common intention) and Section 153 of the Railways Act (endangering safety of railways passenger by willful act of omission) were made out against the accused, the agency's spokesperson said in a statement here.
The CBI alleged that the accused had direct responsibility of efficient upkeep of signal and telecommunication assets of Bahanaga Bazar railway station, where the tragedy took place.
It also alleged that the repair work at the level crossing gate number 94 near Bahanaga Bazar station was done under direct supervision of Mahanta using the circuit diagram of LC gate no. 79.
The typical circuit diagram of another LC gate No.79 was being used at the time of execution of wiring work being done at North Goomty (hut) of Bahanaga Bazar Railway Station, for changing the operation of level crossing gate No.94 from 110 volt AC to 24 volt DC, the agency further alleged.
The duty of the accused persons was to ensure that testing, overhauling and carrying out alterations to the existing signal and interlocking installations were in accordance with the approved plan and instructions which they did not do, it said. The central probe agency had taken over the investigation from Odisha Police.
A high-level railway inquiry had found "wrong signalling" to be the main reason for the accident and flagged "lapses at multiple levels" in the signalling and telecommunication department, but indicated the tragedy could have been averted if past red flags were reported.
The independent inquiry report submitted by the Commission of Railway Safety (CRS) to the railway board said notwithstanding the lapses in signalling work, remedial actions could have been taken by signaling and telecommunication staff if "repeated unusual behaviour" of switches connecting two parallel tracks were reported to them by the station manager of Bahanaga Bazar.
The report also suggested that non-supply of station-specific approved circuit diagram for the works to replace the electric lifting barrier at level crossing gate 94 at the Bahanaga Bazar station was a "wrong step that led to wrong wiring".
It said a team of field supervisors modified the wiring diagram and failed to replicate it.
The report also said there was a similar incident on 16 May (2022) at Bankranayabaz station in the Kharagpur Division of South Eastern Railway on account of wrong wiring and cable fault.
"Had corrective measures been taken, after this incident, to address the issue of wrong wiring, the accident at BNBR would not have taken place," it added.