Updated: November 21, 2020 10:05:08 am
A sessions court has rejected the bail plea of Gufran Qureshi (36), the owner of a Nagpada building — part of which had collapsed in August and lead to the death of two persons — observing that even if the tenants in question were occupying the dilapidated structure, it was necessary for the owner to take precautions to safeguard their lives. The court further stated that the two lives were lost as adequate precautions were not taken while carrying out repairs of the building.
On August 27, Noorbanu Qureshi (70) and her granddaughter Arisha (12) had died when a portion of a toilet block at Mishra chawl building in Nagpada had collapsed onto them. The FIR, based on the complaint of a family member of the victims, had named partners of Sirsiwala Realty, who owned the building, as the accused.
Police had arrested Qureshi on November 2 on charges including culpable homicide not amounting to murder. The prosecution had submitted that Qureshi had not taken precautions at the time of repairs being carried out on the ground-plus-two-floors structure.
“The applicant (Qureshi), being proprietor/ owner of the building, is responsible for the work carried out in the said building by the contractor which resulted in the present mishap… Even if the deceased are occupying the unauthorised structure, then also (it is) necessary to take all precautions to safeguard the life of human beings,” the court said.
Qureshi had submitted that the building, constructed in 1940, was in a dilapidated condition. He added that he had approached the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) for its redevelopment under provisions of the Development Control Regulations. A No Objection Certificate (NOC) for the same had been granted in 2017, but the demolition of the building for redevelopment purposes was halted as part of an ad-interim injunction given by the small causes court on a case filed by an occupant. Qureshi said that the work could, therefore, not commence.
He told the court that he had approached MHADA and requested the housing agency to consider repairing the building as a special case since it was dilapidated. However, in 2019, he was informed by MHADA officials that he would have to carry out the repairs himself within three days. Claiming innocence, Qureshi told the court that the tenants had begun the repairs themselves through a contractor, adding that the incident took place at that time due to the latter’s negligence. The contractor has also been named an accused in the case.
The court said that Qureshi was directed by MHADA to carry out repairs in 2019, but there was nothing on record to indicate that he had done the same. The court said this counted as an omission on his part, as he knew the condition the building was in. Residents of the building also claimed that once demolition work was initiated, it was done without asking the tenants to vacate.
The court further noted that investigation in the case was still in progress, and if Qureshi was released on bail, there was a possibility of him tampering with the evidence, and denied him bail.
MHADA has 14,704 buildings in south Mumbai, between 90 and 100 years old, which provide residence to about 53,000 people.
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