The Bombay High Court yesterday rejected a criminal application, filed by an accused in the Aftab Manzil building collapse case, seeking interim protection. Sundeep Prakash Bafna, who had a car showroom on the ground floor of the structure, had prayed for the appointment of a panel comprising structural engineers to look into the disaster.
It is alleged that Bafna made structural changes to the showroom, which weakened the building. Speaking to MiD DAY, advocate Shrikant Bhat, who appeared on Bafna’s behalf, said, “Under section 157 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the police must investigate the case before they register an FIR. How could the police register a charge of culpable homicide against my client without ascertaining the reasons why the building collapsed? This can only be done if there is a report by a structural engineer.”
Bafna’s application stated that the incident was “one of the most tragic episodes in [his] life”. “It is particularly poignant that a professional lawyer of the high status of Mr Rizwan Merchant lost in this gruesome manner his mother, his wife and one son,” it added. Appearing on behalf of Merchant, senior advocate Adhik Shirodkar told the judge that such a request was “not maintainable” before court. He argued that it amounted to seeking anticipatory bail. Rejecting Bafna’s plea, Justice KU Chandiwal ruled, “There have been multiple casualties… This court does not desire to interfere under section 482 (CrPC), and asks for a report of the structural engineer.”