IHC seeks details of payout for Tezgam inferno

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The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has ordered the ministries of interior and railways to submit in writing as to what compensation they have offered to the injured and families of the people who died in a horrible train accident in October last year.

On 31 October 2019, Tezgam passenger train caught fire while traveling from Karachi to Rawalpindi, resulting in over 80 deaths. Preliminary evidence had suggested the explosion of a portable stove occurred because some passengers illegally cooked food aboard the train.

On Monday, the Ministry of Railways submitted its report on the inferno to the IHC bench headed by Justice Mohsin Akhter Kiyani. Railways chief executive officer (CEO) appeared in the court and informed the bench that a total of 87 people lost their lives in this tragic incident.

“The government would give compensation and relief to the victim families,” he added.

During the course of proceeding, the deputy superintendent of police told the court that a first information report (FIR) of the incident had been registered in Khanewal Police Station. He said police personnel and other officials, who committed negligence, had been nominated in the FIR.

In response to an objection raised by the complainant, the lawyer of railways ministry adopted the stance that the railway’s police are authorized to register the FIR at any police station across the country.

The railways official said DNA of 10 bodies could not be done while 12 persons had not been identified so far. He said the railway police had improved security to avoid such incidents in the future. “Security cameras would be installed in trains, which would be able to record at night” he added.

The bench said no one could interfere in the investigation of railways police and directed it to present its opinion after finishing the probe into the incident.

The railway’s lawyer said once the identification of bodies is completed, relief would be given to all victim families. Justice Kiyani said the death of a victim could not be proved until autopsy of his body.

“The postmortem of the victims of 9/11 was completed in seven years,” he noted.

Counsel for the victim families said the government had announced Rs50,000 for the injured and Rs100,000 for each family of the dead person. The court adjourned the hearing of the case till April 14.

Prime Minister Imran Khan had ordered an immediate inquiry into the accident. Minister for Railways Sheikh Rashid has announced a ₨1.5 million compensation fund for each of the families of the dead, as well as ₨0.5 million for those injured.  Six railway officers were suspended after the accident.

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