Investigation into the blaze at an illegal firecracker packaging unit in Bawana has revealed that factory owner, Lalit Goel (45), was outside the building when the fire broke out, but chose to flee instead of contacting police or fire service officials, probe officers told The Indian Express. Goel and co-owner Manoj Jain were arrested by police last week in connection with the fire that claimed the lives of 17 workers. Delhi Police’s Crime Branch is investigating the incident.
According to an investigating officer, Goel had come to check the work at the factory on January 20. Police said Goel parked his Santro car outside the unit and started consuming alcohol. Around 6.20 pm, the fire broke out and spread through the building within minutes. Outside, people could hear sounds of crackers bursting. “On seeing the blaze, Goel panicked. Instead of informing police or the fire department, he just stood there for a few minutes before fleeing,” a police officer said.
On Monday, a city court extended Jain’s police custody by two more days. Police told the court that Jain was not cooperating with the investigation. “Jain did not reveal the password of his mobile phone. However, we have managed to get 500 contacts from his phone, with whom he was in touch,” police told the court.
Police had earlier found that the consignment of crackers at the factory had come from Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras district. During investigation, police also raided a godown in Bawana’s Sector 5, where explosive materials had been stored. Police said the godown owner will be called for questioning.
Police also said they might add sections of the Child Labour Prohibition Act in the case, after they found a 12-year-old boy, who claimed to have worked at the factory. “The boy’s statement has been recorded… he will be produced before the child welfare committee. The sections may be added during the course of investigation,” the officer said.
Police had registered a case under sections of culpable homicide and the Explosives Act at Shahbad Dairy police station. The probe was transferred to the Crime Branch two days after the incident. Goel and Jain will be produced in court on January 31.