With expert report in hand, Bengaluru police set to act on fatal metro pillar collapse

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With an expert panel report on the January 10 collapse of an under-construction metro pillar in east Bengaluru, which killed a woman and her two-year-old son, suggesting design lapses, police are set to fix criminal liability for the incident, sources said.

A case of causing death due to negligence was filed on January 10 by police on the basis of a complaint by Lohit Kumar, 33, a software engineer and the husband of Tejaswini L, 28, (also a software engineer) and father of two-year-old Vihan L, who were killed in the metro pillar crash at Govindapura.

Lohit and his family, including a two-year-old daughter, were travelling to the Manyata Tech Park to drop Tejaswini when the pillar crashed on the rear portion of their motorcycle, where Tejaswini and Vihan were seated. Lohit and his daughter escaped.

The FIR did not name any individuals for causing the deaths but stated that site engineers, contractors, site in-charge officers and Bengaluru Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL) officials were responsible for the incident. A case was booked under Indian Penal Code sections for endangering lives (336 and 337) and for causing death by negligence (304 A), but no arrests were made.

Police appointed a panel from IIT-Hyderabad to look into the pillar collapse while the BMRCL appointed an expert from the Bengaluru Indian Institute of Science’s civil engineering department for the same purpose. Both submitted their reports last week.

Sources in police said criminal liability was being ascertained on the basis of the IIT report and that arrests would be soon made. The IIT report has indicated the “improper design of supporting structures” of the pillar as the cause of the collapse.

“We had felt there was a problem with the supporting structure and it has been confirmed,” a police officer said.

“We wanted to know whether it was a design problem. We understand the design has now changed,” a police source said.

Police have questioned BMRCL MD Anjum Parvez, a senior IAS officer, and other officials over the incident in the past few days. The construction contract for the metro stretch is with the Nagarjuna Construction Company.

Professor Chandra Kishen of the IISc, who was tasked by the BMRCL to investigate the collapse, reported that “inadequate supporting structures” for the pillar had caused it.

The Karnataka High Court has initiated a suo motu public-interest case and is slated to take it up next week. “These news items prompted us to take cognisance of the incidents referred to above, wherein there is the unfortunate death of a lady and her toddler son and pathetic road conditions,” the court said on January 13.

The court has asked “whether any accountability is fixed either on the contractor agency undertaking the work or the officer concerned supervising the work for failure to maintain safety measures”.

It has also asked about the safety measures prescribed for the construction work, whether safety measures are part of the tender document or contract agreement, and about the mechanism adopted for the periodical supervision of the construction activity.

“As these issues referred to above require serious consideration, we deem it appropriate to take cognisance of the issues and direct the registrar-general to file a writ petition seeking necessary action in respect of the above issues referred to by us,” the court said.