Five days after a fire at Hotel Arpit Palace in Karol Bagh left 17 dead, the Delhi Police Crime Branch arrested its owner Rakesh Goel after he landed in New Delhi from Qatar on Sunday. The Crime Branch received a tip-off that Goel, who founded Hotel Arpit Palace in 1993, was travelling to Delhi from Qatar by IndiGo flight 6E 1702.
A lookout circular (LoC) had already been issued on Thursday and Goel was detained upon arrival in Delhi and handed over to the Crime Branch officials. Goel was arrested after brief questioning and will be produced in court, said DCP Rajesh Deo. The Delhi Police will seek his remand to further its investigation into the blaze in the five-storey, 46-room Karol Bagh hotel.
Besides Goel, two people have been arrested so far — hotel general manager Rajendra Kumar (47) and assistant manager Vikas Kumar (21).
An LoC has also been issued against the owner’s elder brother Shardendu Goel, who is still absconding. It has been found that all licences of the hotel were in Shardendu’s name.
A forensic expert said the fire started in room number 109 “probably due to the air-conditioner switched on by a couple due to lack of ventilation. As it is winter, the AC was probably not serviced and there was a short-circuit, which led to the fire”.
A Supreme Court-appointed monitoring committee, which is investigating the lapses that led to the blaze, has flagged four violations — the hotel had no adequate parking; its height was above 15 metres; the basement and top floor were used for commercial purposes, and the terrace was used to hold parties.
In its FIR, the Delhi Police mentioned that some of the shortcomings were two kitchens in the basement and terrace, no smoke alarms, no signage directing guests to the emergency exit and obstruction on the way to the exit.