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HC junks bail plea of showroom owner

The owner of the automobile showroom on the ground floor of the Aftab Manzil building that collapsed on June 10,claiming 10 lives.

Written by Express News Service | Mumbai | Published: October 13, 2013 2:37:59 am

The Bombay High Court Friday rejected the anticipatory bail application filed by Sandeep Bafna (43),the owner of the automobile showroom on the ground floor of the Aftab Manzil building that collapsed on June 10,claiming 10 lives.

“The applicant (Bafna) had done the act of tampering with structurally vital parts of the building,and prima facie by way of a rash and grossly negligent act,knowing fully well about its repercussions and consequences to be fatal to the lives of inmates of the building,” Justice A H Joshi observed while turning down Bafna’s application.

Leading a battery of lawyers representing Bafna,senior counsel Ram Jethmalani told the court the only allegation made against his client was that he had carried out repairs in the basement of the ‘A’ wing of the building. Jethmalani argued that even if this was considered to be a fact,Bafna’s action could not be termed as ‘causa causans (primary or effective cause of damage).’

He also argued that Bafna had taken the opinion of experts before carrying out any repair work and he was entitled to do that. “One who has acted with due diligence in taking measures cannot be branded as negligent,that too for fastening criminal liability,” Jethmalani submitted.

Intervener in the case,lawyer Rizwan Merchant,whose mother,wife and 13-year-old son were killed in the collapse,argued that a report by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) committee that exonerated Bafna was not impartial. He said that even the contentious report,that is under objection,did not dispute the fact that there was damage to the beams,columns and the walls of the building at Bafna’s instance. It was Bafna’s action of tampering with the RCC beams and columns that caused the building to crumble,Merchant told the court.

The court observed: “It is prima facie seen from the evidence that has now surfaced that potential of damage caused to structurally vital parts of the building has proved to be grave,assuming that the applicant is not an expert. He would not know the fact of tampering to the structure to be per se grave and dangerous. He would,however,certainly know that any tampering would result in death of occupants of the building if done by unskilled person or person without expertise and at times even by experts.”

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