Mumbai: Kamala Mills owner also to face charges

Updated: 19 January, 2018 10:55 IST | Chetna Sadadekar and Laxman Singh | Mumbai

BMC commissioner seeks three months' time to verify violations; probe report puts more BMC officials in the dock

The Kamala Mills blaze killed 14 people. File Pic
The Kamala Mills blaze killed 14 people. File Pic

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) seems to be pulling no punches in its investigation report on the devastating Kamala Mills blaze. The report, submitted by BMC chief Ajoy Mehta to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, also holds the owners of Kamala Mills accountable for the incident. It concludes that they too should face criminal charges along with the architects, interior designers and owners of 1 Above and Mojo's Bistro, the restaurants where the fire broke out.

"This is the first time we have proposed criminal action against the architects, interior decorators and owner of the premises. We will submit all the documents before the police to initiate criminal procedure against them for violations," Mehta told mid-day.

The report has also initiated a departmental inquiry against 15 civic officials, which includes two former assistant municipal commissioners from the G-South ward. It has also suspected misuse of space. Mehta has asked Fadnavis for three more months to verify the FSI violation, additions and alterations carried out without approvals, as various activities are running in the compound of Kamala Mills.

Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had called for the inquiry soon after the December 29, 2017 fire. File Pic
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had called for the inquiry soon after the December 29, 2017 fire. File Pic

Blatant FSI violations
The report states there is a possibility that the Kamala Mills limited have used commercial areas beyond the permissible upper limit, which needs to be verified in detail. Mehta said, "There are blatant FSI violations in Kamala Mills. Also, massive additions and alterations beyond the plan have been done. Occupiers have used premises beyond the approved plan and got permissions by using fraudulent documents."

"In the next three months, we will check FSI use and alterations and prepare fresh comprehensive reports. We will take the help of department of industrials to find out whether permission sought for setting up an IT office and canteen was turned into setting up restaurants," he said.

Ajoy Mehta, BMC Chief
Ajoy Mehta, BMC Chief

Taken to task
The interior decorators and architects have been taken to task for neglecting fire safety and using narrow passages and highly combustible materials for creating an ambience. Further, there appears to be a group outside the system, which was actively operating to enable the granting of permissions and actively camouflaging violations through various means. This needs to be investigated in depth, emphasised the report.

The report states, "The owner of the premises who had given permissions for unauthorised use of the terrace areas to these restaurant owners and their not taking any fire safety precautions are equally responsible for the fire and death of people...It is therefore proposed to initiate criminal actions against the owners of the premises, owners of the two restaurants, the architect and the interior decorator who carried out, aided and abetted these unauthorised works and illegal activities."

Forged photos for restaurant license?
Mehta has also pointed out in the report that one Mr. Patil, a station officer, issued an NOC to 1Above on December 23, 2017 after his site visit and attached photos of the terrace where its covering is not seen. Mehta states it is practically impossible to construct such a large terrace covering within such short time and thus, it appears that the photos were either taken when this structure was not constructed or he did not visit the site and trusted the photos given by the owners.

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First Published: 19 January, 2018 08:26 IST

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