Bombay HC terms Kamala Mills fire a BMC failure, says blaze couldn't have occurred without connivance of officials

Mumbai: The fire tragedy at the Kamala Mills compound in central Mumbai that claimed 14 lives could not have happened without the connivance of officials in the illegal activities going on there, the Bombay High Court has said.

A bench of Justice RM Borde and Justice RG Ketkar on Friday ordered the setting up of a three-member independent committee, headed by a retired high court judge, to probe the 29 December fire at 1Above and Mojo's Bistro roof-top restaurants at the Kamala Mills compound.

14 people died in the Kamala Mills fire. AFP

14 people died in the Kamala Mills fire. AFP

The order came in response to a public interest litigation (PIL) petition filed by former top cop Julio Ribeiro, seeking a judicial inquiry into the case.

"The loss of life is attributable to illegal activities of the operators of the restaurants, in connivance with the owners of Kamala Mills as well as the authorities who are responsible to ensure observance of regulations and the licensing norms," the high court said in its 23-page order.

The detailed order was made available on Saturday.

"It is in fact institutional failure of the municipal corporation as well as the state excise department," the court said.

"Considering the scale of violations of rules and regulations, it cannot be visualised that those can occur without the knowledge of the local authority or without any connivance of civic body officials," it added.

Stating that the involvement of civic body officials and the government could not be ruled out, the court said, "We are of the considered opinion that an independent committee, unconnected with the affairs of the municipal corporation and the state government, should be appointed."

The bench added that it went through the policy for roof-top restaurants submitted by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).

"However, we cannot be unmindful of the shocking incident, taking a toll of 14 lives and we are of the view that the policy adopted by the corporation (allowing such eateries) needs to be implemented with a lot of circumspection," the order said.

According to a report prepared by the BMC commissioner, the flying embers of a hookah, served illegally at Mojo's Bistro, had started the fire and illegal alterations at both the restaurants aggravated the tragedy.

Apart from the owners of Kamala Mills and the two restaurants, a fire brigade officer has also been arrested in the case.

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Updated Date: Feb 18, 2018 08:25:59 IST

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