Kolkata: The Calcutta High Court has stayed the payment of compensation declared by the West Bengal government to the families of victims of last December's hooch tragedy in South 24 Parganas that claimed more than 172 lives.

Hearing the PIL filed by two advocates Chittaranjan Panada and Basabi Raichowdhury challenged the state government's move to pay compensation to the victims of the hooch tragedy, bench constituting of Chief Justice JN Patel and Justice Sambuddha Chakrabarti stayed the payment of compensation for eight weeks.  

The Court also asked the state government to explain its compensation policy and on what grounds it can give compensation.

Besides, the court has also asked the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) which is probing the case to submit status report of the investigations in addition to a report from the secretary of the State's Excise department on the steps taken by it to curb the menace.  

Petitioner Panda argued that if money is given to the families of the victims, it will send a wrong signal. Consumption of illicit liquor was illegal and the government cannot give compensation for any illegal act, added Panda. 

He even contended that if compensation is given to the victims, then it would act as a major setback for the state government’s drive against hooch.  

Meanwhile government’s counsel Ashok Banerjee argued that the tragedy was an accident and the government had the right to compensate the affected.  

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had announced Rs.2 lakh compensation each to the families of those who died in the hooch tragedy.

(JPN/ Bureau)