The Furniturewala brothers, who have been accused in the Mahim building collapse case, now claim that they have been receiving threat calls from Dubai. They have implied that the calls are being received from the underworld. Advocate Rizwan Merchant, who lost three members of his family in the collapse and is a complainant in the case, earlier represented Iqbal Kaskar, brother of Dawood Ibrahim, along with other accused in the 1993 blasts case.
Speaking to MiD DAY, the Furniturewalas’ lawyer R A Shaikh said, “They have been receiving calls from some Dubai numbers where some persons say, ‘dekh lenge’.” Asked if a non-cognisable complaint had been registered about the calls, Shaikh added, “We have not lodged a formal complaint.”On June 15, families who lost their kin in the collapse filed FIRs against the Furniturewala brothers, BMC officials, Bafna, MD of Fort Point, the auto showroom in the premises, and Iqbal Ebrahim, the licensor.
They were booked under various sections of the Indian Penal Code including 304 (punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder), 308 (attempt to commit culpable homicide), 336 (act endangering life or personal safety of others), 338 (causing grievous hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others) and 288 (negligent conduct with respect to pulling down or repairing buildings).
A Sessions Court yesterday granted interim anticipatory bail to the three Furniturewala brothers, Irfan, Mohammed Ali and Sharif for Rs 25,000 each. The court ordered them to report to the police station every alternate day and not to leave India. The court reasoned that they were not the main culprits in the case. “The main culprits are Bafna and others,” Judge KK Dholakia said. On Tuesday, the brothers had submitted a letter to the Mahim police station, assuring full cooperation with investigations. The case will be heard once again on July 16.
The brothers have had a tough time finding legal representation for their case, as all lawyers have turned against them following a bar resolution. Lawyers refused to represent the brothers because Merchant’s family is involved in the case. It was only Shaikh who agreed to represent the brothers as he has handled their matters in the past. “We too had warned Merchant that the building would collapse,” Shaikh pointed out.
Shaikh clarified that after the death of family patriarch Altaf Furniturewala, the brothers were not interested in real estate and sold off the tenanted premises to the tenants and made them full owners. However, three tenants could not afford to purchase the property. They later stopped paying rent. Disagreements between the owners, tenants and landlords left the building in terrible decay. Referring to the Fort Point showroom, Shaikh said, “They have sold off the ground floor premises and are no longer responsible for them.”
Meanwhile, members of the Furniturewala family are said to be in grief over the deaths of Merchant’s kin. A close friend of the Furniturewalas said, on condition of anonymity, “The brothers have known the Merchant family since childhood. They have grown up together. They too cried when they heard of the loss.” Mohammed Ali Furniturewala told MiD DAY, “We have kept away from the family and avoided giving statements to the press because the families were grieving. We are extremely sorry for their loss. We thought it would be inappropriate to say anything. But that backfired on us.”
Referring to the bar’s collective decision not to represent them, he said, “It was tantamount to saying that we are guilty.” When contacted, advocate Rizwan Merchant said, “This is only a pressure tactic to have me back out from my complaint, but I will not back down. I have full faith in my matter and in the judiciary. Let them come forward with a formal complaint and let the police investigate me.”