WHILE GRANTING bail to the owners of Kamala Mills on May 16, the Bombay High Court has held that the act of erecting monsoon shed over the compound’s terrace by using combustible material and storing material that obstructed the emergency exit can be attributed to the owners of the restaurants but not to the owners of Kamala Mills. On Wednesday, the court had granted bail to Kamala Mills owners Ramesh Gowani and Ravi Bhandari in connection with the December 29, 2017 fire that broke out in two adjoining rooftop restaurants, resulting in the deaths of 14 people.
Govani and Bhandari were arrested after a BMC report stated that they were negligent about structural changes that led to customers at the bars being unable to escape when the fire broke out. Justice V L Achliya, in his order, observed, “Only for the reason that the applicants (Govani and Bhandari) had not taken action against the owners/partners of the said restaurants or had not reported their act of unauthorised erection of structure to municipal authority itself is not sufficient to attribute that the applicants had the knowledge that such incident was likely to occur, which would cause death of person/s in the premises of the said restaurants. For violation of municipal laws, regulations of the development control rules, the applicants can be prosecuted by the municipal corporation.”
The court added that only because Govani and Bhandari had overlooked structural changes, “prima facie, the applicants cannot be charged for offences under Section 304-I or 304-II of the IPC”. “The applicants cannot be vicariously held liable for the act of owners/partners of the restaurants, who are primarily found to be responsible for the incident…” The court granted bail to the two considering that the “applicants are having deep roots in the society”. “They have no past record of involvement in the offence of similar nature,” it added.
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