Ramesh Govani, owner of the Kamala Mills Compound arrested on Monday in connection with the Kamala Mills fire tragedy, was produced in a Bhoiwada court on Tuesday and remanded in police custody till January 29. The police said the accused was allegedly hiding in Pune and was nabbed from Sion-Trombay Road on Monday evening after they were tipped off about his arrival in the city.
In the court, public prosecutor Sanjay Vadhvane said the mill owner is responsible for structural changes at Kamala Mills. He further said investigators have learnt that the mill owner didn’t have appropriate permissions to run a rooftop restaurant at Trade House in Kamala Mills. Also, they wanted to investigate whether Govani started the two resto-pubs 1Above and Mojo’s Bistro along with their owners, he said.
Vadhvane told the court, “The owner should check whether the tenant follows every norm set in the agreement. He is responsible for every structural change in his property and he should have checked whether the resto-pubs have necessary fire exits. They have also made illegal constructions in their basement, so we need Govani’s police custody to investigate.”
Ajinkya Badar, defence advocate for Govani, argued that his client had helped investigators and had co-operated in their investigations. “I am just the owner who has leased out the property on rent. If I keep going and checking the property the tenant can file a case of criminal trespass against me. It is the duty of the lessee to not make any structural changes in the property. Am I supposed to go and check health and fire hazards in every eatery that I rent,” Badar argued for his client.
He said Govani came to the police station whenever he was called. His statement had earlier been recorded under the MRTP Act. Badar said being owner of the property, Govani is a victim as his property was burnt in the incident. He could have been named a prosecution witness, he said.
Govani was arrested after BMC chief Ajoy Mehta submitted a report saying the owners of the resto-pub along with Kamala Mills owners had negligently caused structural changes that led to the death of 14 people in the fire on December 29.
Govani, in his statement to police, said he was not aware of the toilet constructed by the owners of 1Above, where the 14 victims lost their lives due to suffocation. He alleged he was informed about the illegal construction of the toilet only after the tragedy.
Mumbai Police have so far arrested 12 people, including the five owners of the two restaurants, two managers of 1Above, an interior decorator, a fire officer and the supplier of hookahs apart from the owner and partner of Kamala Mills Compound.
The Bhoiwada court also heard the bail application of the five restro-pub owners and the matter was adjourned till January 25. The bail appeal started with Rizwan Merchant, who represented Yug Pathak, following which Yug Tuli’s advocate presented his appeal for bail.
Merchant said such an incident never took place in his restaurant. He said, “The terrace area of Mojo Bistro was partially covered. Hookah was being served during the incident and flying embers of charcoal were not in human control due to the wind as it is an open space so this made it an ‘act of god’. So the hotel owners cannot be held liable for the flying embers.”