Balasore Train Accident: CBI Makes First Arrests, 3 Railway Staff Taken Into Custody

New Delhi: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Friday took into custody three railway personnel in connection with the June 2 Balasore train accident, making the first arrest in the case. The central agency arrested Senior Section Engineer (Signal) Arun Kumar Mahanta, Section Engineer Mohd Amir Khan and Technician Pappu Kumar, posted in Odisha’s Balasore district.

The three have been arrested under IPC sections 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) and 201 (destroying evidence), officials said.

The CBI in its investigation found that the accused railway employees were also involved in tampering with the evidence. The arrested accused will be produced in the competent court and CBI will demand custody.

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The Railway Board had also recommended a Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry into the accident, following which the CBI took over the probe on June 6.

The CBI has already registered a First Information Report (FIR) in this matter. The agency got involved in the case after allegations of tampering with the electronic interlocking system following the accident.

The accident, one of the deadliest train accidents in the history of India, involved the Shalimar to Chennai Coromandel Express, the Bengaluru-Howrah Superfast Express and a stationary goods train. The accident took place on 2 June near Bahanaga Bazar railway station, in which 291 people died and more than 1000 were injured.

A high-level inquiry into the tragedy by the Commissioner of Railway Safety (CRS) found “wrong signalling” to be the main cause of the accident and dismissed previous reports of sabotage or technical fault.

The CRS, which comes under the Ministry of Civil Aviation, is the government body that looks into railway safety and investigates incidents. The probe panel also flagged “lapses at multiple levels” in the Signaling and Telecommunication (S&T) department. The report also states that the tragedy could have been avoided if previous red flags had been reported.

The report further states that the station manager at Bahnaga Bazar should have informed the S&T department about “repeated abnormal behaviour” of the switches connecting the two parallel tracks, following which remedial action could be taken.

The CRS report also suggested that non-supply of a station-specific approved circuit diagram for the work of replacing the electric lifting barrier at level crossing gate 94 at Bahanaga Bazar station was a “wrong step which led to incorrect wiring”, reported PTI.

The probe report has also urged the railways to review the system of disaster response in zonal railways, adding that the initial response to such a tragedy should be swift.