The Calcutta High Court Monday stayed the payment of compensation declared by the West Bengal government to the families of victims of last December’s hooch tragedy in South 24 Parganas.
The division bench of Chief Justice J.N. Patel and Justice Sambuddha Chakrabarti stayed the payment of compensation for eight weeks in a public interest litigation filed by two advocates Chittaranjan Panada and Basabi Raichowdhury, challenging the state government’s move to pay compensation.
The Court also asked the state government to explain its compensation policy and on what grounds it can give compensation.
The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) which is probing the case has also been asked to submit status report of the investigations as well as a report from the secretary of the State’s Excise department on the steps taken by it to curb the menace.
Panda argued that if money is given to the victims’ families, it will send a wrong signal. Rather it should try to bring the families under a social security scheme.
Consumption of illicit liquor was illegal and the government cannot give compensation for any illegal act, added Panda.
The government counsel however, contended that the tragedy was an accident and the government had the right to compensate the affected.
At least 171 people — mostly masons, labourers and hawkers — perished after consuming spurious liquor at shanties near Sangrampur railway station of South 24-Parganas district Dec 13-14 last year.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had announced a Rs.2 lakh payable to the families of each of those who died.