THE ALLAHABAD High Court has granted bail to three persons – two owners and the manager of Levana hotel in Lucknow’s Hazratganj – where a fire resulted in the death of four people and injuries to seven on September 5. A case was subsequently lodged at Hazrtaganj police station. The three accused who were granted bail by the court on November 28, were lodged in jail after being arrested on September 5 and 6.
The fire was suspected to have originated as a result of a short circuit in the control room where computers were installed on the ground floor.
Bail was granted by the High Court to owners of the hotel Rahul Agarwal, Rohit Agarwal and manager Sagar Srivastava.
While granting bail to the accused, Justice Dinesh Kumar Singh on November 28 said, “I, therefore, find a little substance in the submission of learned counsel for the accused-applicants that it may be difficult for the prosecution to sustain the charge under Sections 304 and 308 IPC. There may have been some infraction of regulatory requirements to run a hotel, but that would not amount that the accused-applicants have been negligent or they failed to take due care of their guests or they had knowledge of the fire accident, which would result in death/injuries to the guests.”
The court added, “To attract the provisions of Section 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) IPC, there has to be knowledge of an accused that his act would likely cause death.”
“For example, the case of drunken driving in an inebriated state, under the influence of alcohol would give rise to an inference that the person so driving had the knowledge that his act was likely to cause death. The fact situation in the case at hand is not comparable to a case of drunken driving…,” said the court.
The court said “offence under Section 308 (attempt to commit culpable homicide) IPC may also not get attracted in the facts and circumstances of the case”.
“However, the said question would be decided by the learned trial court at an appropriate stage,” the court said.
The counsel who appeared on behalf of the accused submitted in court “that the fire accident was an unfortunate incident and neither the accused-applicants nor the hotel manager had any role to play either by way of act or omission.”
The counsel also said that the hotel was “having No Objection Certificate dated 17.8.2017 from the office of the Deputy Director, Electricity Safety, Government of Uttar Pradesh and thus, it is submitted that the allegation of mismanagement of electricity installation, was absolutely incorrect”.
It was submitted that “there could not have been any intention to commit any offence and all due care and caution were taken to run the hotel…”.
The counsel submitted “the invocation of offence against the accused-applicants under Sections 304 and 308 IPC are wholly erroneous”.
The counsel representing the victims and the state opposed the bail applications and submitted that “all the compliances/certificates, ‘No Objection Certificates’ and approvals” were “obtained by keeping hand in gloves with the concerned authorities without the compliance on the ground”.
The counsel submitted that the hotel was “running without providing an extra staircase and there were iron grills/ windows of the hotel, which were very much in the knowledge of the accused-applicants”. “…if some day a fire breaks out, it would certainly cause bodily injury or death and, in fact what has happened on 5.9.2022 and, therefore, the offence under Sections 304 and 308 IPC has rightly been invoked against the accused-applicants…,” the counsels submitted.