Kurla hotel fire: Accused granted bail, even as parents struggle to cope with their loss

Parents of the six students who died in the blast met right after hearing about the accused manager being let out on bail; while they contemplate on starting a support group, their lawyer says they will take the case to the HC

Two months after eight people – including six students – died in a sudden fire at the City Kinara hotel in Kurla, Sharad Tripathi the accused manager, has been granted bail in the case, much to the displeasure of the families of the deceased.

The City Kinara hotel, after the fire. File pic
The City Kinara hotel, after the fire. File pic

Tripathi was the manager of the hotel, and right after the tragedy he had fled the scene. Sudesh Hegde, the owner of the hotel is still behind bars, and his bail application will come up for hearing on December 29.

Sharad Tripathi. File pic
Sharad Tripathi. File pic

Jalil Sheikh, who lost his 20-year old-son Sharjeel in the ill-fated blaze, called an emergency meeting on the same day to discuss the next course of action. Six family members of the deceased students attended it.

“We are yet to come to terms with our loss. However, what irks us is the unanswered questions, pertaining to the actual cause of the fire and the indifference shown by the law makers and civic authorities, who have allowed such restaurants to operate without following the stipulated fire safety standards,” complained Sheikh.

Holding back her tears, Rekha Thapar, who lost her young son Aakash said that it was a great mystery that the bodies of a majority of the victims, including her son’s, were only charred from waist above. “Aakash’s hands were in the position of sending a text message on his mobile phone. This clearly indicates that the fire was in full force within a matter of seconds, before the victims had any chance to react. They could have detected the smell of a gas leak otherwise,” Thapar said.

Thapar is the sole breadwinner of the family, since her husband has been bedridden for the last ten years. She adds, “ I still go to the charred structure every Sunday and weep for hours”. Jacinta lost her husband around four years back.

Jacinta D’ Souza who lost her only daughter Bernadette (18) in the fire expressed similar sentiments. Prior to her daughter’s death, Jacinta’s husband had also passed away four years ago. She said, “Life, as we know it will never be the same for me. Despite her young age, my daughter had the maturity to find courage and happiness even in the most challenging situations, which was a motivation for all.”

Sheikh said that the parents of the victims are contemplating on forming of a support group, which will assist families who find themselves in similar unfortunate circumstances. But, it can only happen once they are at peace with their own personal tragedy.

‘We will appeal in the HC’, says lawyer
Regarding the legal possibilities in the case, advocate Shabnam Latiwala, who is representing the families of the victims opined that the matter could be tried by a sessions court. “The police have not filed the chargesheet yet.

Moreover, the sessions court had rejected the bail application on December 9. The magistrate has shown undue haste in passing the order and favouring the accused. The cause of death has not been confirmed till date.”

She added that none of the hotel staff have been arrested yet. Latiwala says, “It appears that the trial court has totally ignored the observations made by the sessions court and granted bail in a serious offence, in which eight people lost their lives. We shall challenge the order in the high court through a writ petition. But, the courts are shut for the next four days. The police have another thirty days to file the charge sheet.”

Police says
Senior inspector Praveen More of VB Nagar Police Station said that he was aware of the bail being granted, but he is yet to receive a physical copy of the order. He said, “We will scrutinize the legal document before deciding on the future course of action, which includes going for an appeal.”

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