KARACHI: Declining a plea to allow mass burial of the unidentified victims of the Baldia factory fire, the Sindh High Court has summoned the project director of the National Forensic Science Agency to appear personally and explain delays in identifying the bodies on February 20.
“We find it hard to express ourselves,” remarked Justice Maqbool Baqir, who headed the bench while hearing a petition seeking a judicial probe into the worst industrial disaster in which at least 259 workers were killed on September 11, 2012.
The relatives of 21 workers, who are believed to have been killed in fire but whose charred bodies remain unidentified, had gone to court.
Khurram Ahmed, representing one of the bereaved families, requested the judges to direct the authorities to hand over the unidentified bodies to the families for a “collective burial”.
The two judges declined the request. “We have been told that 17 bodies of the victims have still not been identified.”
“We, therefore, find it difficult to order handing over the bodies as the legal heirs of other victims may not agree to such an order,” they added.
On January 29, the additional DIG of Karachi was directed by the court to look after the identification. NFSA’s project director was also told to depute a competent officer or doctor along with an adequate number of the technicians and equipment to Karachi within four days.
On Friday, the investigation officer, Inspector Jehanzeb, told the judges that a request was made to the forensic agency’s project director to either visit Karachi or depute an officer. But, he had said he was unable to come to Karachi as the secretary did not allow it.
The bench directed the forensic agency’s project director and Additional DIG Karachi to appear in person on February 20 along with reports on what they had done to comply with the court order.
The forensic agency’s director should be accompanied with doctors and forensic experts so that they may assist court on the possibility of identifying the victims, it said.
Meanwhile, the court was informed that a German firm, which was among the buyers of the readymade garments produced by the ill-fated factory, had deposited $1 million in compensation money with the SHC’s nazir.