A social activist filed a case in a Bihar court on Monday against Navjot Kaur Sidhu, the wife of Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, in connection with last week’s accident in Amritsar that killed 62 people, PTI reported. Navjot Kaur Sidhu was chief guest at the event. The complaint accused her of failing to discharge her duties and of concocting an alibi.
Around 300 people had gathered near railway tracks in Amritsar on Friday evening for Dussehra celebrations when a train plowed through the crowd standing on the tracks. A second train coming from the opposite direction ran over those who had jumped out of the way of the first train. She claimed she left the venue before the trains reached the spot but Opposition parties said she left immediately after the tragedy.
The complaint filed in Bihar blamed Navjot Kaur Sidhu and the organisers for the incident and said the court should order a trial against her. Her presence at the event led to a surge in the crowd, the complaint said, adding that the security personnel were engaged with her instead of controlling the crowd.
The complaint sought action against Navjot Kaur Sidhu under sections of the Indian Penal Code relating to injuring or defiling a place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any class, for an act endangering life or personal safety of others, and for intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace.
Chief Judicial Magistrate Arti Kumari Singh said she would hear the case on November 3. Both Sidhu and his wife have blamed the railways for the accident.
NHRC issues notice
The National Human Rights Commission took suo motu cognisance of the incident on Monday and sought detailed reports within a month from the Punjab chief secretary and the chairman of the Railway Board. The commission said “it cannot be said to be a sane act by people to sit on the railway tracks, [but] at the same time, the negligence on the part of the district authorities is apparent behind this bizarre and horrific incident”.
“It seems that the local authorities and the organisers did not properly manage the crowd...” the commission said. “It was the responsibility of the State to provide proper safety and protection to the citizens during the event. If it is true, as reported in some sections of the media, that the railway authorities were not informed about the event, it indicates towards highly negligent and reckless attitude of the authorities responsible.”
Suresh Arora, the director general of police in Punjab, had said on Sunday that the accident happened due to negligence, and that an inquiry had been set up to fix accountability. Railway Board Chairman Ashwani Lohani said it was not a “railway accident” but a case of trespassing on rail tracks.
The organiser – the family of a Congress councillor – had permission from the Amritsar police but not from the municipal corporation and the health and fire departments, reports said. A petition was filed on Monday before the Punjab and Haryana High Court to set up an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation or a Special Investigation Team to look into the accident.
Railway Minister Piyush Goyal, who was on a visit to the United States, returned to India on Monday. Officials said he was unable to return immediately after the incident because tickets were not available, PTI reported. Meanwhile, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh proceeded with his visit to Israel on Sunday after he was “completely satisfied with the relief and rehabilitation measures being carried out”. He had postponed his visit after the incident.