The Bombay High Court on Thursday rejected the bail application of Sunil Shitap and Ranjit Agale arrested in connection with the Ghatkopar building collapse in July last year in which 17 people were killed. Shitap, a Shiv Sena worker, is alleged to have made structural changes to the building, Siddhi Sai Apartment, in Ghatkopar (west), leading to its collapse. Last year, the sessions court had rejected Shitap’s bail twice.
On Thursday, Justice A S Gadkari rejected the bail of Shitap and architect Ranjit Agale. Advocate Sujay Kantawala, appearing for 11 families that lost relatives in the incident, said: “The court held that the evidence brought on record clearly states the complicity of the offence and therefore, they (Shitap and Agale) should not be granted bail.”
The investigation into the collapse of the four-storey building on July 25 had revealed that society secretary Shitap had planned to build a fully-equipped modern maternity home on the ground floor of the structure. Shitap, who owned the ground floor, ran a nursing and maternity home in the building.
Police said the nursing home was very old and its walls had been crumbling. The facilities and machinery there had become obsolete. So, Shitap decided to revamp it. He, the police claim, hired Agale to design the new structure.
Shitap had submitted that cracks had developed in the pillars of the building constructed in 1983 and that it was in a dilapidated condition. He had also claimed that he was arrested because of political rivalry. The prosecution had claimed that the chargesheet showed that the changes made by Shitap to the building were unauthorised.
Justice Gadkari said: “… in the present case 17 human beings have lost their lives and 14 persons have suffered serious to grevious injuries and therefore the applicant, Sunil Shitap, being the owner of the said ground floor of the building and the applicant, Ranjit Angale, being the interior decorator of the said project, cannot be permitted to shrug off their responsibility, by adopting a specious plea that, they are not concerned with the entire incident and it caused due to human error of the labourers which were employed/appointed by the applicant, Ranjit Angale.”
The court noted: “As noted earlier, the applicant, Sunil Shitap, is a highly influential person and due to his political influence and terror spread by him in the locality, the residents of the said Siddhi Sai building did not even protest his repair/renovation work… this court is of the considered view that the applicants do not deserve to be released on bail.”