Kerala High Court grants bail to two senior port officials accused in Tanur boat tragedy case

Both Port officials were arrested and detained in judicial custody for allegedly permitting and facilitating the owner of the boat to operate without complying with legal requirements.

The Kerala High Court on Monday granted bail to two senior port officials who were arrested in connection with the Tanur boat accident that claimed the lives of 22 persons earlier this year. [Sebastian Joseph v State of Kerala & Anr.] [Prasad VV v State of Kerala & Anr.]

On May 7, a recreational boat carrying over 30 people capsized in Malappuram district’s Tanur and claimed the lives of at least 22 persons, including several children.

Among those arrested in the case were Sebastian Joseph, Chief Surveyor of Kerala Maritime Board, and Prasad VV, Senior Port Conservator, Beypore Port, both of whom have now have been granted bail.

Justice Ziyad Rahman AA noted that both these port officials were in custody for more than 40 days. The judge added that since these officials were already suspended from service, there was no chance of them tampering with the evidence, before allowing their release on bail.

Both officials had been charged with various offences punishable under the Indian Penal Code.

The prosecution’s case was that these port officials had permitted and facilitated the boat’s owner to operate the boat without complying with statutory requirements. They were alleged to have allowed the boat’s owner to operate the boat even before its registration was complete.

The State further opposed granting bail to both of the port officials on the ground that they issued a certificate of survey without taking note of serious lapses in the boat’s design.

The two officials were also accused of suppressing the fact that the boat was a fishing boat that was converted to a passenger boat, which was not permissible as per law. The government’s counsel added that these port officials may tamper with evidence, if they were granted bail.

The port officials, on the other hand, claimed that they were innocent and that they had been roped into the case without any material to establish their culpability.

The Court, ultimately, granted bail to the two port officials on the condition that they cooperate with the investigation and trial.

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