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Doctor in SC on car fires

New Delhi, June 5: A paediatric surgeon today moved a petition in the Supreme Court seeking a probe into what he says are growing instances of cars catching fires spontaneously, often killing the occupants.

Dr Sanjay Kulshresthra, an Agra resident, has demanded criminal action against the car manufacturers and dealers if the probe finds prima facie evidence of gross negligence in some of the fatal accidents.

His petition says that in several such car fires, the occupants were burnt alive as the doors and windows jammed, cutting off escape. So, until the inquiry is over, he has demanded a ban on power windows (those operated by switches or buttons) and central locking systems in all cars in the country.

The apex court will within a few days decide whether to hear the public interest litigation.

The petitioner says he moved the top court after failing to “get any satisfactory answer or explanation from (the) ministry of surface transport and (the) Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers… about whether any official inquiry or forensic study for such incidents had been done”.

Quoting Delhi police, the petition says that at least 35-40 such fires have been occurring every year in the national capital alone. It adds that several manufacturing defects can be responsible for such fires.

The petition says that “the lobby” of car manufacturing companies “is very strong and dominating and responsible for (the) present lax attitude of (the) government”.

It contrasts the situation with that “prevalent in countries such as (the) United States, Japan and South Korea, which have strict regulations on (product) recalls and specialised bodies looking into them”.

In his petition, the surgeon has cited two incidents reported in Delhi last month:

On May 24, a car caught fire near the Defence Colony but the two occupants managed to get out.

On May 9, a 38-year-old businessman was charred to death inside his car when it suddenly burst into flames. Witnesses said they could see a man desperately trying to get out but the doors seemed to have jammed.