The Sessions court, while rejecting the bail applications of the accused in the Kamala Mills compound fire case, observed that the “unholy nexus” between the accused and municipal officials appeared to be the root cause of the incident. The observation was made in the detailed order, rejecting bail to owners of the compound, Ramesh Govani (54) and Ravi Bhandari (58).
“There appears to be collusion between the applicants and the municipal officer. This unholy nexus appears to be the root cause of the entire incident,” Additional Sessions Judge Anand L Yawalkar observed. The court had on Friday rejected the bail applications of 11 accused for the fire on December 29, 2017, which claimed 14 lives.
The fire had allegedly started at the restaurant Mojo’s Bistro when a flying ember from a hookah came in contact with a curtain. It rapidly spread to the adjacent restaurant, 1Above, where its patrons got trapped and died of suffocation. The two restaurants were in the Trade House building, owned by Govani and Bhandari.
The court said the owners of the restaurants were given the terraces on leave and licence basis by the two accused. The court observed that the “unauthorised activities” of Govani and Bhandari had initiated from the drawing and sanctioning of the plan of the building.
“Earlier, the map of the building was sanctioned by getting additional FSI from the municipal corporation on the pretext that it was an Information Technology Park. After getting the additional FSI, the applicants constructed the building called Trade House. They converted it into a commercial space and did not change the occupancy. They were not authorised to give the terrace on rent. Still, they gave the terrace on leave and licence to hold 1Above and Mojo’s Bistro illegally,” the court said.
It also observed that plans and documents were misrepresented before the authorities. It added that since their offices were on the same floor as the restaurant, they could not claim that they were unaware of unauthorised construction.
Against the owners of the restaurants, including owners of 1Above — Kripesh Sanghavi (36), Jigar Sanghavi (37) and Abhijit Mankar (30), and Mojo’s Bistro’s owners — Yug Pathak (27) and Yug Tuli (29) — the court said they had served hookah illegally on their premises. “The applicants had blocked the fire exit by storing articles. The fire safety mechanism was not in place. It was mandatory for them to keep the terrace open. But, they constructed the shed, which resulted in the death of its customers,” it observed.
About the role of the fire officer, Rajendra Patil (52), the court said it, prima facie, appeared to be “dereliction in his duties” and he had colluded with the other accused by giving a false report concealing that an illegal shed covered with a flammable asbestos sheet and tarpaulin was constructed on the terrace. The court also rejected the bail plea of Utkarsh Pandey (28), who had allegedly entered into a revenue sharing agreement with the restaurants to provide hookah illegally, which caused the fire. It also rejected the bail plea of the two managers of 1Above, Kevin Bawa (34) and Lisbon Lopes, observing that as senior employees of the restaurant, they had knowledge of the illegalities.