he Gujarat High Court (HC) on Tuesday granted regular bail to a junior engineer with the Surat Municipal Corporation who was arrested last year as an accused in the fire tragedy in a commercial complex in Surat in May 2019 that claimed 22 lives.
The accused, Atul Gorsawala, who was absconding soon after the incident, was arrested on October 2, 2019 and was in judicial custody since.
Gorsawala allegedly approved structural changes in the building, permitting the construction of a dome and is facing charges of culpable homicide.
Gorsawala was represented by senior advocate S V Raju, who is now the additional solicitor general at the Supreme Court.
As a junior engineer, Gorswala argued that his “role was very limited to verification and measurement of illegal structures, which were to be legalised under the Gujarat Regulation of Unauthorized Development Act (GRUDA), 2011 and for the same purpose, he had visited the site on May 16, 2013 and had verified the application,” made for Takshshila Arcade, the building where the fire broke out, six years after.
Gorsawala also submitted that during site inspection, he was accompanied by other officials, who are also named as co-accused and the arcade’s application was verified and scrutinised collectively and a report was submitted for the purpose of issuing notice for the impact fee under GRUDA and that he had no further role.
Senior counsel Raju also highlighted that it was not the case of the prosecution that fire started on the third floor and that Gorsawala failed to perform his duty, but rather that the fire was caused due to a short circuit in the outer unit of one of the air conditioners and it was from there that the fire spread further to the third floor.
“The entire case is based on the illegal construction of the fourth floor with which the applicant is not concerned and that was also never a part of the application made by the owner under the GRUDA, because the fourth floor was not in existence in 2013,” but rather was illegally constructed in or around October or November 2016 that is, much after the certificate of regularisation was granted, Raju had submitted. Given that four other co-accused SMC officials too had been granted regular bail, relief on the ground of parity was also sought.
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