Kamala Mills fire: Bombay HC raps Maharashtra govt over 'meaningless', 'copy-pasted reply' on aid to probe panel

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court rapped the Maharashtra government on Monday over its reply about steps taken to provide necessary assistance to a committee proposed to be set up to probe last year's fire incident at the city's Kamala Mills compound that claimed 14 lives.

A bench of Justices Shantanu Kemkar and MS Karnik said that while the state had earlier expressed keenness to appoint a judicial committee and provide infrastructure and other necessary assistance to it to help probe the incident, it was now trying to shift all the burden to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).

File image of Bombay High Court. Reuters

File image of Bombay High Court. Reuters

"We (the court) don't understand this reply. You were to tell us about the constitution of the committee, the facilities and remuneration that was to be provided to the committee. Instead, you have filed a standard, computerised response, an irrelevant response," the bench said.

"Does the state keep a ready template for replying to court orders? Have you copy-pasted your reply from somewhere?" the court asked.

"Don't try to shift all your burden on the BMC," the bench said.

The observations came after the state government filed a two-page reply, stating that it was the BMC's responsibility to provide office space and other infrastructure for the judicial committee.

In its reply, the state had also mentioned some details of the dispute around the mill land.

At the last hearing, the court had specifically directed the state to consult the BMC and submit in writing the infrastructure and remuneration it proposed to provide to the committee members.

The BMC's counsel, senior advocate Anil Sakhre, told the bench that the civic body was ready to provide the requisite office space, computers, internet, and other infrastructure for the committee. The bench directed the BMC to state this in writing.

It also directed the state to conduct a meeting with the BMC and the petitioner within a week, and to file a fresh reply by 2 April.

The bench was hearing a Public Interest Litigation filed by retired IPS officer Julio Rebeiro, seeking, among other things, a judicial inquiry into the fire that led to the death of 14 people in December last year.

The Maharashtra government had told HC last month that it had decided to constitute a three-member judicial committee to probe the "genesis" of the incident.

It had also submitted in a sealed cover the names of several retired Bombay HC judges, two architects from the panel of the high court, and two retired secretaries from the state urban development department. The court will select the members of the committee from among them.

On the night of 29 December last year, a fire broke at restaurant Mojo's Bistro in the Kamala Mills compound in Lower Parel. It later spread to the adjoining restaurant 1Above.

An inquiry by the city civic body had revealed large-scale construction irregularities and violation of safety norms.

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Updated Date: Mar 19, 2018 17:24:57 IST

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