After chargesheeting five suspended municipal officials for dereliction of duty in connection with the Kamala Mills fire, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has now chargesheeted seven others including two assistant municipal commissioners, Prashant Sapkale and Bhagyashree Kapse. The seven officials have been given 10 days to submit their replies, following which a decision will be taken on the penalty to be imposed.
While Sapkale was the assistant commissioner of G-south ward (Lower Parel, Elphinstone Road) that covers the Kamala Mills area at the time of the tragedy, Kapse was his predecessor. Sapkale was transferred to the K-East ward (Andheri East, Vileparle East) on December 29, hours after the tragedy in which 14 people died. Kapse was AMC of G-South ward during the time when no-objection certificates and permissions were granted to the two restaurant-bars where the fire broke out. Kapse is currently AMC of N Ward (Vikhroli west and Ghatkopar west).
The five others issued chargesheets regarding their lapses include health officer Dr R Madan, fire officer RB Patil, sanitary inspector Pradip Shirke, engineers (building and factory department) Manohar Kulkarni and Milind Vhatkar.
Already, on December 29 itself, Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta had issued suspension orders against five officials, including designated officer (DO) Madhukar Shelar, sub-engineer Dinesh Mahale, junior engineer Dhanraj Shinde, medical officer health (MOH) Dr Satish Badgire and assistant divisional fire officer S S Shinde.
On January 18, Mehta submitted his final report on the Kamala Mills compound tragedy saying there was a possibility of FSI misuse in the two resto-bars. In that report, Mehta named ten officers who will face a departmental inquiry. Following police investigations, two more names were added to the list of those facing departmental inquiry.
The latest two names were those of fire officer RB Patil who had conducted an inspection of 1Above restaurant based on which NOC was give to the resto-bar just five days before the tragedy. The police accused Patil of morphing a photograph taken during the inspection.
A departmental inquiry is underway against the 12, being conducted by additional municipal commissioner Vijay Singhal. Municipal sources said a detailed, seven-page chargesheet has been issued in the name of each of the officials stating where they had failed to perform their duties.
“While the five suspended have already been charged with dereliction of duty, remaining seven have been issued the chargesheets. They are expected to reply within next 10 days, or within the timeline if they have requested for extended time. The chargesheet is actually like a show-cause notice that has listed out allegations against an officer concerned. We seek their explanation on the same. We will then correlate the facts and turn of events with the reply submitted by these officials and quantum of punishment will be decided accordingly,” Mehta told The Indian Express.
The chargesheet has questioned the 12 officials’ failure in acting against irregularities found at the two rooftop resto-bars 1Above and Mojo’s Bistro in Kamala Mills compound.
Singhal will now conduct a hearing for the officials after receiving their replies and then submit his report to Mehta. He is expected to do so within the next three months. If found guilty of negligence, they will face appropriate action.