Over a month after a fire at Karol Bagh’s Hotel Arpit Palace claimed 17 lives, the Crime Branch’s Special Investigation Unit (SIU) has moved an application before senior officials at the Delhi Police Headquarters, asking them to allow investigators to summon senior officials of the municipal corporation and the fire department for questioning.
Police had earlier arrested hotel owners Rakesh Goel (63) and Shardendu Goel (69), general manager Rajendra Kumar (47) and assistant manager Vikas Kumar (21).
The SIU moved an application days after collecting evidence against civic body and fire department officials. “During investigation, we asked both agencies to provide documents, and discovered that Rakesh bought the property in 1988 as a two-and-a-half storey residential building. After demolishing it, he constructed a hotel there,” a senior officer said.
The hotel, started in 1993 by Rakesh, had 46 rooms, a banquet hall, a kitchen in the basement and one on the terrace accompanied by a restaurant, and a bar on the ground floor. It was in 2015 that Rakesh’s brother Shardendu replaced him as the director.
Police found that Rakesh had applied for a licence in 2002, but his application was rejected for constructing more floors than allowed. However, within two months, he applied again. This time, he allegedly got the MCD’s approval, police said.
“After scanning documents, we found that the hotel was booked for violations five times between June 1993 and January 1994 – the first time for unauthorised construction in the basement, and then for illegal construction on the first, second, third and fourth floors. It was also booked for laying a roof on the fifth floor. The MCD also booked them for illegal construction of shutter, pillar walls, roof, a reinforced cement concrete tank and a lift room,” a police officer said.
On Monday, the investigation officer also wrote to the Delhi government, requesting it to form a panel of three officers — fire, forensic and police — to ascertain the exact cause of the blaze.
Earlier, a forensic expert had said the fire started in room number 109, probably due to the air-conditioner being switched on by a couple due to lack of ventilation. As it was winter, the AC was probably not serviced and there was a short-circuit, police said.