2004 Kumbakonam School Fire Tragedy: Supreme Court Orders Victims' Lawyer to Shell Out Rs 50 Lakh
As many as 49 petitions were moved in the Madras High Court wherein affected families contended that their lawyer illegally diverted the compensation money to bank accounts held by him or his relatives.
In this July 18, 2004 photo, mourners hold a vigil for victims of the Kumbakonam school fire tragedy. (Reuters)
New Delhi: The Supreme Court has ordered a lawyer to deposit Rs 50 lakh as a condition to stop investigation against him over charges that he duped the victims of the 2004 school fire tragedy in Tamil Nadu’s Kumbakonam.
A bench headed by Justice Kurian Joseph directed advocate S Tamilarasan to deposit the money in the Madras High Court within three weeks.
The court said that this money shall be used to provide compensation to the family members of the children, who died in the incident.
A deadly blaze at Sri Krishna School in Kumbakonam had claimed the lives of 94 students on July 16, 2004. On direction from the court, the government had awarded compensation to family members of the victims.
But as many as 49 petitions were moved in the High Court in March this year wherein the families contended that Tamilarasan, who was their lawyer, illegally diverted the compensation money to bank accounts held by him or his relatives.
The contempt petitions demanded action against Tamilarasan for the fraud he had allegedly committed against his clients, apart from an order to refund the money.
Last month, the Madras High Court ordered a CB-CID probe against Tamilarasan. It asked the CB-CID to attach the bank accounts and properties of the advocate, his wife and other relatives, in whose accounts the money had been allegedly transferred, for recovering the compensation amount.
The High Court further directed the Bar Council of Tamil Nadu to take appropriate action against Tamilarasan and suspend him from practising as an advocate till such time.
The advocate moved an appeal before the Supreme Court and claimed he had committed no fraud, and that the alleged transferred amounts were only for professional fee.
During the recent hearing, the bench made it clear that it was only concerned about the compensation payable to the victims of the fire tragedy and if they received their monies, the matter could end.
It then directed Tamilarasan to deposit Rs 50 lakh as a stipulation to stay the CB-CID probe as well as the order of suspension of his practise as a lawyer.
The bench maintained that the probe will stop only after the advocate deposits Rs 50 lakh and in addition to this, Rs 1 lakh each for every further complaint of misappropriation.
Refusing to go into the merits of his case, the apex court asked Tamilarasan to deposit the money in the High Court, and make further submissions there when the matter is taken up on June 5.
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