Chitra-Khalijia disaster: Master to know his fate on December 18

Nov 29, 2018, 08:00 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon

Trial in one of the Mumbai's biggest ecological disasters ends eight years after the collision between MSV Chitra and MV Khalijia resulted in tremendous material and environmental loss

Chitra-Khalijia disaster: Master to know his fate on December 18
One of the two cargo ships after the collision off the Mumbai coast. At least 33 sailors on board were safely evacuated following the accident. File pic

The fate of Master Laxman Dubey, navigator of the ill-fated MV Khalijia III, will be decided by the Ballard Pier Court on December 18, when the verdict in the over six-year-long trial will be pronounced. The matter was adjourned for judgment to December 18 on Wednesday by JC Dhengale, Metropolitan Magistrate, who had been hearing the case since the beginning.

According to the Yellow Gate police, Dubey, 59, was charge-sheeted in the year 2012 for the incident that happened in August 2010. Charges were framed under IPC sections 280 (rash navigation of vessel), 336 (Act endangering life or personal safety of others) and for causing environmental pollution under sections 7, 8 and 9 of the Environment Protection Act. All the offences carry punishment of less than seven years and the accused are tried by the Metropolitan Magistrate court.

Master refutes charges
Advocate Arpan Rajput, appearing for Master Dubey, confirmed the development and said, "The recording of my client's version under 313 of CrPC has already been done and my client has refuted the charges levied on him by the prosecution. The prosecution had produced 25 plus witnesses including officials from Mumbai Port Trust, police, Maharashtra Pollution Control Board officials, DG Shipping etc and we have argued the matter at length and the judgment is awaited."

The villagers in and around Uran broke open the containers and took the tea powder and biscuits from them, little realising that they were contaminated. File pic
The villagers in and around Uran broke open the containers and took the tea powder and biscuits from them, little realising that they were contaminated. File pic

Serious environmental issues
The morning of August 7, 2010, witnessed a major collision between two cargo ships, MSC Chitra and MV Khalija, off the Mumbai coast. The collision resulted into the spilling of containers and oil along the coastline. MSC Chitra, which was carrying 1,219 containers, 2,662 tons of fuel, 283 tons of diesel, and 88,040 litres of lubricating oil, capsized and sank into the Arabian sea off the Mumbai coast, causing the maximum damage to the area. The major oil slick led to serious environmental issues and adversely affected the water bodies.

Soon after the accident, Master Mandeleno Martin, who was navigating MSC Chitra, and Master Dubey (navigating M V Khalija III) managed to obtain anticipatory bail. Martin, in his bail plea, stated that collision happened due to navigational error, which was caused by radio communication failure and that there was no error on his part. The prosecution relied on the police investigation and made Master Dubey the accused. Highly placed officials said at the time of the incident, M V Khalija was headed to dry docks for repairs and was empty, whereas MSC Chitra, which was loaded with containers, was leaving JNPT and was headed for the port of Mundra in Gujarat. According to Rajput, "Post this incident, the Continuous Discharge Certificate (CDC) of Master Dubey could not be renewed and therefore he was not able to get any suitable (job) offer."

Dubey refuses to comment
When contacted, Dubey, a resident of Navi Mumbai said, "As the matter is still pending for the verdict, I will not be able to make any comment. I will wait for the judgment."
Senior Police Inspector Surekha Kapile of Yellow Gate Police station said, "I have recently joined this police station and will have to check the records before making any statement about this particular case."

What happened

  • 1,219 containers were laden on MSC Chitra of which 512 containers were on the deck. Of these 250 containers fell into the sea and some floated from 4 to 5 kms.
  • 30 containers contained hazardous material
  • The oil spread from the Raj Bhavan coast to Mandva and Alibag due to high tide
  • Six boats and 2 helicopters were deployed to spray anti-pollution chemicals on the spilled oils to prevent damage to the ecology

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