Eight of the 13 accused arrested in the Deonar dumping ground fire have applied for bail before the sessions court, claiming that they have been falsely implicated.
The eight — Sohail Sheikh, Mohammed Salim Sheikh, Jaiprakash Jadhav, Shamim Khan, Rajesh Mahadik, Alibaba Sheikh, Mohammed Husain Sheikh and Shoaib Sheikh — are currently in judicial custody, lodged in Arthur Road jail.
The Shivaji Nagar police arrested these men on April 15 and 16 for allegedly setting fire inside the ground on March 20. The police are claiming that these men working as scrap dealers encouraged lighting fires to separate metal from waste for resale.
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“…the story of the police on the face of it appears to be doubtful and the same is supported by the documentary evidence of the police itself,” says one of the bail pleas. It adds that of the charges applied by the police, the most serious charge, which is non-bailable inviting a maximum punishment of life term if found guilty, “does not fall into the ambit of this case”.
“The police have applied Section 436, which can be applied in cases where the place of incidence is a house or place of worship, human dwelling or a place for the custody of property like a godown or a warehouse. The dumping ground is neither of these. This section does not fall into the ambit of this case,” said advocate Shoaib Shaikh, appearing for six of the accused.
Shaikh added that though the police had claimed in their remand application that those arrested were scrap dealers, many of the arrested men were not connected to the dumping ground at all. He added that another ground in the bail application was that many experts, including police officers, had been quoted in newspaper reports since the fire erupted in the dumping ground on January 28 that the blaze was due to natural combustion due to the presence of methane.
“The case of the prosecution, as seen from the remand report of April 17, 2016, shows that the custody of the accused were not required by the police for the purpose of investigation of the case and no recovery or discovery is to be made,” says the bail application. The case is likely to be heard on April 27.
Earlier, families of the accused had told The Indian Express that the police had arrested the men under pressure on the pretext of medical tests.
On Saturday, the police arrested two more men, brothers Ateeq Khan and Rafiq Khan, claiming that they were the prime suspects, heading the most powerful gangs in charge of the dumping ground. The police said the two made the others rummage through the scrap and ignite the waste to separate valuable metal waste.