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Kurla hotel fire: BMC to file FIR against official for missing documents

MUMBAI, Jul 22, 2019

MUMBAI: The BMC will file a case against the public information officer/record officer at L ward responsible for maintaining the permission-related documents of Hotel City Kinara in Kurla (W), municipal commissioner Praveen Pardeshi informed the Bombay high court in an affidavit submitted last week. The BMC response comes four years after eight people, including seven students, were burnt to death at the Kurla hotel when a fireball, suspected to have been triggered by a short-circuit and fuelled by a gas leak, ripped through the AC section.

This is a rare instance when the BMC has fixed the criminal responsibility for missing documents on its officials. Last September, nearly 1,401 building construction files of properties between Goregaon and Dahisar went missing from the department's Kandivli office. In 2012-13, over 7,000 building files had gone missing from H-west ward, which covers Bandra. Sources claimed that crucial files had been deliberately misplaced by local officials in connivance with builders so that there are no traces of possible building violations. In both cases, the BMC had submitted written complaints to the police, but did not file FIRs against its officials.

While police had arrested Hotel City Kinara manager, Sharad Tripathi, and owner, Sudesh Hegde, for culpable homicide not amounting to murder, no criminal action was taken against civic officials for negligence. The BMC initiated departmental proceedings against the officials concerned.

After the incident, activist Vijay Manthena filed an RTI application to find out if the eatery had all permissions. He was shocked to learn that the civic officials had turned a blind eye to the illegal structural changes when granting permission to the eatery. The BMC only furnished the medical officer of health (MOH) licence, and not the no-objection certificates (NOCs) from the fire, building and factory departments though they are required to procure the licence. Also, the MOH renews the licence annually after examining the NOCs and the sanitary inspector has to inspect the premises periodically, which were not done in the case of the Kurla hotel.

After the MOH and assistant municipal commissioner of L ward informed Manthena that the documents were "untraceable", he filed an appeal before state information commission. In August 2016, the commission directed the municipal commissioner to conduct an inquiry about the "untraceable" documents and submit a report. When the municipal chief failed to follow the order, Manthena approached the HC.

On April 9, 2019, the court asked the BMC chief to file an affidavit dealing with the compliance of the state information commission directive.

In his affidavit, Pardeshi stated that ward offices have been directed to trace the file of Kinara hotel, and an FIR will be filed against the public information officer/record officer at L ward and departmental action will be taken against the official. He also submitted an unconditional apology to the HC for inadvertently mentioning in his earlier affidavit on June 27, that he had "directed the deputy municipal commissioner zone V to make an inquiry and submit a report to the court and to the state information commissioner". The inquiry order was issued by his predecessor, Ajoy Mehta, on April 12. The court then disposed of the petition.

Kurla hotel fire: BMC to file FIR against official for missing documents
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