HC quashes criminal proceedings against ship captain

By PTI Published on Jul 07, 2018 11:09 AM IST

Chennai: The Madras High Court has quashed criminal proceedings in a lower court pending against the captain of a ship allegedly for abetting the death of six crew members during cyclonic storm Nilam in 2012.

"The prosecution has not clearly established the proximity between his acts and the death of the vessel crew members and the act was due to the omissions on his part. Hence, no useful purpose would be served in rendering a finding on the other aspects," Justice M S Ramesh said in a recent order.

The judge was allowing a criminal original petition filed under CrPC Sec. 482 CrPC (saving of inherent powers from high court) from Sunil Kumar Rai, captain of the Pratibha Cauvery ship, challenging the proceedings on 26 June last.

Pratibha Cauvery had come to the Chennai Port on 28 September, 2012 from Kolkata.

Around noon on 31 October, strong winds during Cyclone Nilam resulted in the ship running aground off Chennais coast.

Six crew members drowned when they tried to escape. Advocate B Sathish Sundar submitted that the overt acts attributed to the petitioner, if taken on the face of it, cannot mean that he had committed certain wilful acts or omissions which had probably caused the death of crew members.

It was on account of the natural calamity and not the wrong decision of the captain of the ship, he argued.

Accepting the submissions, the judge said from the facts of the case, the captain ordered the crew to abandon ship during the storm.

"While the crew were in the life boat, it capsized due to heavy storm and rough sea conditions and the petitioner, who was the person ashore, is made liable for certain acts of alleged omissions," the judge said.

The documents produced before this court are to establish that the vessel was sailing under proper authority from Kolkata to Chennai and came to be stranded while awaiting further orders for repairs from the port authorities, the judge said.

These documents obtained from the authorities concerned cannot be discarded or ignored.

"When such documents reveal that the petitioner herein did not have any overt act to mulct him with a charge this court would be well within its powers inlooking into such documents," the judge said.

"The language of CrPC sec 482 are explicitly clear to give powers to this court to look into such documents for the purpose of securing the ends of justice," the judge said and quashed the criminal proceedings before a Magistrate court here.