Tragic Incidence of Carmel Convent School
One man Inquiry report by Justice (Retd) Jitendra Chauhan on Tragic Incidence of Carmel Convent School, Sector 9 Chandigarh
A tragic incident had occurred on 8.7.2022 in Carmel Convent School, Sector-9, Chandigarh whereby a tree fell on students who were taking lunch under the tree causing death of a student and injuring few more. Chandigarh administration, thus had constituted one member inquiry committee headed by Justice (Retd.) Jitendra Chauhan vide Order No.CCFD/241 dated 13.7.2022 to ascertain the fact of the case and fix responsibility including remedial actions to be taken.
The enquiry report of one member enquiry committee headed by Justice (Retd.) Jitendra Chauhan has been received by the Chandigarh Administration on 6.2.2023. In his detailed report, the Hon’ble Chairperson of the committee has thrown light on various aspects of the incident including the excerpts of statements during his interaction with various students, teachers and officers of the Administration. The Hon’ble Committee has mentioned the Order No.107 dated 21.12.2017 of Chandigarh Administration which states that the department/ institution on which premises the Heritage trees are standing shall be responsible for the protection, preservation and conservation in coordination with Forests & Wildlife Department, UT Chandigarh. The report also states that Peepal tree which fell on 8.7.2022 was not in its ripe age, that being so, it emerges that despite being in its youth, being diseased the tree collapsed, as it could not sustain its weight and fell. The custodian of the tree (School Authorities) being lay man and not an expert, it is not expected from him that he could fathom the consequences of retaining such mature tree in the school premises. So, it is for the department to educate and guide such custodian as to how the whole process of conservation is to be carried out and thus there should have been clear guidelines in this regard. The report prepared by the team of experts of FRI mentions that a fungal attack on the main trunk which affected heart wood of the tree that provides mechanical strength to the tree. As a result, such trees fall due to any storm, heavy wind or by the self-weight of the canopy. Since the sapwood of the tree trunk remains unaffected hence canopy of the tree remains green and from outer appearance it is difficult to assess the health of the tree. Thus, the School authorities cannot be held guilty of any negligence or cannot be termed as facilitator of the occurrence. The report further says that this tragedy has happened due to lapses by the Engineering Department, Chandigarh Administration as the officials did not visit the spot and did not device the specific protocol to keep such trees in good health and to accord specialized treatment if any, available to strengthen the tree. However, the administration is of the opinion that in absence of any clearcut guidelines the officials of the engineering department were not authorized to enter the premises of the private institutions in whose premises the tree was standing. A detailed guideline has been issued subsequently to avert any such untoward and tragic incidence in future.
The committee further has given few remedial measures and suggestions like creation of a Green Brigade, associating members of the Residents Welfare Societies, Ultrasonic evaluation of the very mature trees, extensive survey of all dead & dry trees, creating a single window system to process the tree felling application with faster delivery for the trees posing danger to life and property, regular inspection of heritage trees, phasing out of Eucalyptus trees etc.
In response to the suggestions/remedial action to avert such tragic incidents in future, the administration has already taken prompt action to further streamline the tree procedure with special emphasis on dead/dry trees. A single window has already been created for applying for tree felling permission. All the dead/dry trees to be promptly removed within 48 hours. The rate contract for immediate felling of the trees subsequent to the receipt of felling permission by Competent Authorities is already in place. Further a committee has been constituted for regular inspection and reporting of the heritage tree at periodic interval of 3 months. A detailed survey of all the trees standing in the premises of the 207 schools was done and subsequent action has also been taken to remove 94 dead/dried trees from the school premises in the city. All the remaining 30 heritage trees were thoroughly verified for their health taking due expert assistance from FRI, Dehradun. Two heritage trees (at sector 19 & at sector 33) which were not found to be in healthy condition were also removed and pruning of branches were done to two heritage trees.