Murder charges against owner of Kerala tourist boat that sank killing 15 children
Police in India brought murder charges against the owner of a houseboat after it capsized on Sunday, leading to the deaths of 22, most of whom were children.
Fifteen of the victims of the mishap, that took place off the town of Tanur in coastal Kerala state’s Malappuram district, are said to be children.
The owner of the boat, identified as Nazar, was arrested from Kozhikode city in Kerala, a day after he went missing.
Malappuram district police superintendent S Sujith Das confirmed the arrest, adding that the boat capsize “is being probed as a murder case”. The boat’s driver and his helper are however, still absconding, he said.
Authorities will also investigate if the boat, named Atlantic, had the mandatory permits needed for operations.
The state’s high court also issued strong remarks over the mishap and initiated a suo motu case.
Referring to the incident as “shocking” and “haunting”, the court directed investigators to probe why authorities allowed the operation of vessels flouting rules.
A two-judge bench of justices Devan Ramachandrana and Shoba Annama Eapen said their “hearts were bleeding” after seeing the lifeless bodies of children, reported the Times of India.
The accident took place due to a “deadly cocktail of callousness, greed and official apathy,” noted the justices.
This comes as an opposition legislator claimed the boat owner enjoyed political patronage.
“He had benefited from the political patronage of the ruling LDF [the Left Democratic Front alliance]. The officials who had given tacit support for the violations in the boat service should be made accused in the case,” said KPA Majeed, a legislator of the Indian Union Muslim League representing Tirurangandi Assembly in Malappuram, reported the Indian Express.
Earlier on Monday, Kerala’s chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan ordered a judicial probe in what he described as “a major tragedy” and announced an ex-gratia of Rs 1m (£9,667) to the relatives of the deceased. The government will also bear the expense of the treatment of the injured individuals.
“The state has witnessed a major tragedy in Tanur. 22 people’s lives were lost; 5 people swam and escaped. Out of the 10 people who were hospitalized, 2 have been discharged. Eight people are still under treatment,” he said.
Mr Vijayan also visited Tirurangadi hospital, where many of the injured are admitted and later visited the families of the deceased, along with other ministers and opposition leaders.