The Mumbai Police Crime Branch wrote to the Bombay City Civil and Sessions Court earlier this month seeking permission to destroy 10 drums of methyl and ethyl alcohol seized after the hooch tragedy in Malvani last year. The police fear the chemicals, currently stored in the office of the Crime Branch Unit 11 in Kandivli, may emit poisonous fumes or even explode upon coming into contact with air.
According to an application filed this month, the Crime Branch told the court that it had sought the opinion of the state excise department and the Maharashtra Food and Drug Administration on how best to dispose of the “extremely dangerous and poisonous” chemicals. Forensic tests, it said, had proved that the illicit liquor that caused the deaths of 106 people and left 75 others unwell in Malvani last year was nothing but the noxious chemical methanol.
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During investigation, the Crime Branch arrested 14 persons and filed a chargesheet against them. Two more are at large. From searches of their houses, the police seized nine drums of chemicals from accused Francs Thomas D’Mello, 1 drum from Aatiq alias Mansur Abdul Latif Khan, and cans of illicit liquor from Donald Patel, Raju Tapkar, Mamta Siya Rathod, Salimuddin Mehboob Shaikh and Agnes Gracious.
The application also says the FDA has valued the seized goods at less than Rs 25,000, giving the excise department the authority to destroy them. Illicit liquor seized in several cases, the application adds, is diverted for industrial use after the addition of denaturants and bitterants that give it a dark hue and bitter
taste, as it is unfit for human consumption.
According to a circular issued by the FDA in 2011, methanol seized by the police is required to be destroyed, the application states.
While the latest application is yet to be decided by the sessions court, the Crime Branch had made a similar plea to the chief metropolitan magistrate in July last year, just a month after it began its probe.
The previous application had said a large quantity of methanol was stored in the unit office and there was a fear that the inflammable chemical might explode upon coming into contact with air. The possibility of the poisonous chemical condensing to form noxious fumes could also not be eliminated, the application had stated.