The Madras High Court on Tuesday pulled up the Tamil Nadu government for the death of a two-year-old boy after he got trapped in an abandoned borewell in Tiruchirappalli district on Friday evening, PTI reported. The court asked if the government needs a corpse to implement each and every statute in its books.

The High Court also criticised the media, alleging that it did not telecast anything constructive to create public awareness on the implementation of rules and regulation on borewells and tubewells. The boy, Sujith Wilson, was found dead by rescue officials early on Tuesday.

Two judges – Justices M Sathyanarayanan and N Seshasayee – had agreed to hold a special sitting despite it being a public holiday, according to The Hindu. The petition was filed by V Ponraj, a scientist who had worked with former President APJ Abdul Kalam.

During the hearing, the bench observed that everybody has a social responsibility to bring awareness, and that the media has a special responsibility to highlight the guidelines issued by the state government based on the Supreme Court’s order in the matter of tubewells and borewells. The court ordered the civic authorities in Tiruchirapalli to produce details on the action taken against violators of the rules.

The High Court said a counter-affidavit should be filed by the government by November 21. It should have details on the number of permissions granted and the list of contractors and entities who were allowed to dig borewells and tubewells, as well as a list of unused and abandoned borewells and tubewells and the penal action taken against the violators.

A petition was also filed in the Supreme Court against the government’s alleged inaction in preventing such incidents, Bar and Bench reported. The petitioner cited similar deaths in several states in recent years, and said the central and state governments had failed to comply with the top court’s guidelines given in 2010 to prevent deaths in borewells and tubewells.

Sujith Wilson was reportedly the 12th child to fall in an open borewell in Tamil Nadu since 2009. Only four of them could be rescued.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami issued a statement directing all district collectors to ensure the implementation of rules related to such borewells, The New Indian Express reported. “The government has framed rules and guidelines to be followed while establishing borewells and these rules have been notified in the government gazette,” Palaniswami said. “I have directed all district collectors to ensure adherence to these rules and stringent action should be taken against those who fail to do so.”

Palaniswami also urged the general public to close abandoned pits properly after following all safety procedures to avoid untoward incidents, according to The Hindu. He expressed condolences for the incident and said it was unfortunate that despite massive round-the-clock rescue operations, the boy could not be saved.

Palaniswami said he had deputed three ministers and Revenue Administration Commissioner J Radhakrishnan to oversee rescue operations, PTI reported. “Many difficulties were faced when a separate borewell was being dug near the one [in which Wilson was trapped] due to the presence of hard rocks,” he said. “Overcoming all of them, rescue efforts were carried out day and night.”

However, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam chief MK Stalin said that the “lethargic attitude of the government” was also a reason for the child’s death. “Why weren’t the NDRF [National Disaster Response Force] and the Army called in soon after the intention is to not to criticise the government but we don’t want another child to face Sujith’s fate,” the Opposition leader said.

The state government’s rescue operations drew flak, with many alleging it had adopted a “trial and error” approach. Many claimed that the National Disaster Rescue Force was called in nine hours after the rescue operations began, NDTV reported.

Wilson’s body was buried at a graveyard in Fatima Pudur near Tiruchirapalli after 8 am, The Hindu reported. The funeral prayer service was conducted by the local parish priest of Avarampatti. Since the body was decomposed, it was brought straight to the graveyard for burial following an autopsy.

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