CUSAT stampede: Kerala HC says there was clearly 'some failure'

The open-air auditorium on CUSAT campus after the stampede Saturday night. Photo: Manorama

Kochi: The Kerala High Court on Tuesday said the stampede during the Cochin University's annual tech festival, which claimed four lives, was clearly due to "some failure" and "should never have happened".

Justice Devan Ramachandran said the cause of the incident must be found out so that measures can be put in place to prevent such incidents from happening.

Four people were killed and 60 injured in the stampede that took place before singer Nikita Gandhi was to perform at a musical festival in the open-air auditorium of CUSAT.

Of the four persons who died, three -- Athul Thampi (23), Sara Thomas (19) and Ann Rifta Roy (20) -- were students of the School of Engineering of the Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT) and the fourth -- Palakkad-based Alwin -- an electrician who had ended up at the festival by chance.

The high court said while the incident appeared to be an accident, "it is more or less limpid (clear) that there was some failure".

"This is affirmed by the respondents also. The authorities of the university had specific duties and responsibilities, particularly when congregations of students were to occur within the campus. The role of the police and security personnel also will, therefore, have to be looked into, not for this case alone, but as a guideline for the future, lest such accidents happen again, which is unthinkable," the court said.

The observations by the court came on a plea seeking a judicial inquiry into the incident.

The court declined to order a judicial inquiry after the state government said that certain inquiries have already been commenced by the official agencies and the university. "This court will certainly require details of such inquiries," Justice Ramachandran said.

The court also noted that such an incident has perhaps never happened in Kerala before, and it was shocking because of the horrible aftermath it has left.

"Brilliant lives, who could have been treasures to the nation, were lost...Precious lives have been lost, and the loss for the families are ever to stay. Public memory may be short, but the scar on the members of the families can never be allayed," it observed.

The court said that since the event was stated to have been organised by the students themselves, utmost care must be taken by every stakeholder that the minds of the young people involved are not subjected to blame game or guilt during the inquiries. With the directions, the court listed the matter for further hearing on December 14.

Following the tragic incident, state Industries Minister P Rajeev had said existing guidelines for big public events, including those in universities and colleges, would be revised and updated from time to time to prevent such accidents.

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