A division bench of Acting Chief Justice Mansoor Ahmad Mir and Justice Tarlok Singh Chauhan also expressed dismay over the slow progress of enquiry being held by the Mandi Divisional Commissioner and directed him to conclude the process before the next date of hearing on June 19.
The high court had taken suo motu cognisance of news reports after 24 students and a co-tour operator of a group from a Hyderabad-based engineering college were swept away in the river in Kullu district after sudden release of water from the reservoir of a power project on June 8. In the status report filed today, the state government maintained that the cause of the incident appeared to be the sudden increased discharge of water from the Larji barrage.
According to the government report, the water level at the barrage was full at 969.50 metres, even prior to the opening of the gates. It said at 6.15 PM on June 8, the operating staff at Larji barrage opened Radial Gate No. 5 to 50 cm, thereby releasing 50 cumecs (cubic metre per second) of water, and the spill way gates were subsequently opened to 1.50 metres and then to 2.50 metres increasing water spillage from 50 cumecs to 150 cumecs and above.
"This apparently resulted in substantial increase in water flow, which led to the washing away of students but the exact cause will be known from the enquiry ordered into the incident," the report said. The government also told the high court that the relief and rescue measures were started soon after the incident as the SDM, ADM, additional SP and DSP reached the site, and police, home guard and fire department personnel searched along the river with the help of search lights.
The high court said the status report do disclose the steps taken by the government to trace the bodies and have also tried to explain the cause of the accident, but it leads nowhere, and sought a fresh report by June 19 when it takes up the matter for further hearing.