The Delhi High Court has directed the owner of a factory, which was engaged in the manufacture of firecrackers, to deposit Rs 34 lakh with the authorities as compensation for families of 17 victims who lost their lives in a fire incident at the establishment in Bawana here in 2018.
The court said the amount be deposited with the Commissioner of Employees'' Compensation Act of North East District and it shall be done in two instalments by November and January.
Justice Prathiba M Singh said subject to these two deposits being made, delay in filing of this petition by the factory owner shall stand condoned and the interim order of no coercive action shall stand continued, and Rs two lakh each is released to the legal heirs of the victims by the commissioner.
"The deposit and release of the amounts are being directed to provide some succour to the families of the victims who lost earning members. One of the victims was a 13-year-old girl. The above deposits shall be subject to further orders in the present petition," the court said.
A fire incident took place on January 20, 2018, in a factory manufacturing firecrackers in Bawana, which was being run by petitioner Manoj Jain.
The fire turned fatal leading to the death of 17 workmen and injuries to two others. An FIR was lodged under the Indian Penal Code and Explosives Act.
Mr Jain approached the high court challenging the January 2018 notices issued to him by the Commissioner under the Employees'' Compensation Act, by which he was directed to pay the computed compensation amounts to the legal heirs of the employees who died during employment in the establishment.
As per the application for condonation of delay, the reason for the delay was attributed to the lawyer who was stated to have advised the petitioner that the criminal trial, in respect of the FIR, was more important and proceedings under the Employees'' Compensation Act are civil.
During the hearing, the petitioner's counsel informed the court that in the course of the criminal trial, a sum of Rs 34 lakh was deposited by Jain's son, against whom the FIR was registered, to show his bonafide in the matter.
His son was arrested and granted bail by a trial court on the condition of depositing Rs 34 lakh.
The court was informed by the counsel for the Delhi government and some of the victims that there was a third incident of fire at the petitioner's three factories engaged in the manufacture of crackers.
The high court said under such circumstances and since delay in the present case is more than 1100 days as per the petitioner and almost 2000 days as per the Delhi government's counsel, some conditions would be liable to be imposed for the continuation of the interim order and condonation of delay.
The court made it clear that if the deposits are not made by the petitioner, the application seeking condonation of delay shall automatically stand dismissed and the obvious consequence of it would be that the writ petition shall itself stand dismissed without any further orders.
It also directed the commissioner to file a status report concerning the directions, before the next date of hearing, that is, February 10, next year.