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Godhra train fire accidental: Report

Last updated on: January 17, 2005 16:58 IST
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A high-level inquiry into the Godhra train fire has found that it was an "accident".

Fifty-nine persons were burnt to death in the fire that led to violence in Gujarat in 2002.

"With the elimination of the 'petrol theory', 'miscreant activity theory' as well as the ruling out of any possibility of 'electrical fire', the fire in S-6 coach of Sabarmati Express can at this stage be ascribed as an 'accidental fire'," Justice U C Banerjee Committee, appointed by Railway Minister Lalu Prasad, said in its report.

The report was submitted to Railway Board Chairman R K Singh in New Delhi on Monday.

Noting that there has been preponderance of evidence that the fire originated in the coach itself and not due to any external cause, the committee "completely ruled out" the possibility of an inflammable liquid having been used as there was first a smell of burning, followed by dense smoke and flames.

"This sequence is not possible in case the fire is caused by inflammable liquid thrown on the floor of the coach or an inflammable object thrown from outside the coach," the two-part interim report said.

The committee headed by former Supreme Court judge U C Banerjee was constituted on September 4, 2004, following a Union Cabinet decision to inquire into certain aspects of the incident on the Ahmedabad-bound Sabarmati Express at Godhra on February 27, 2002.

The committee said that the 'inflammable liquid theory' also was negated by the statement of some of the passengers who suffered injuries on the upper portion of the body and not the lower body.

Observing that the report could be "unpalatable for the railways whose entire approach seemed to be casual," Banerjee told reporters that there had been a failure on the part of the railways and the Commissioner of Railway Safety to conduct a statutory inquiry into the accident.

"This was in breach of the Railway Act as well as the Accident Manual of the Zonal Railway", it said.

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