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Can’t be held liable for fire, Kamala Mills owner tells SC

Published On : 24 Mar 2018   |  Reported By : Courtesy The Hindu   |  Pic On: Photo credit The Hindu

Mumbai,(The Hindu): A co-owner of the Kamala Mills Compound on Friday told the Supreme Court that he cannot be held liable for the fire that claimed 14 lives in December last year.

Ravi Surajmal Bhandari, who has filed a habeas corpus (a writ requiring a person under arrest to be brought before a court) also dubbed his arrest as “illegal detention”.

A Bench of Justices A.K. Sikri and Ashok Bhushan questioned senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Mr. Bhandari, how he could file a habeas corpus petition when he is in judicial custody. “I can always say that my arrest is illegal detention. It is my right. They have wrongly arrested me for no fault of mine and hence the habeas corpus petition was filed,” Mr. Rohatgi said on behalf of Mr. Bhandari.

He said Kamala Mills Compound is a huge commercial complex and houses more than 50 restaurants and hundreds of corporate offices.

The Bench asked Mr. Rohatgi why he had not filed a bail application, which the top court could ask the Bombay High Court to consider.

Mr. Rohatgi said he will file the bail application, but the larger question was that the arrest was illegal, as no fault can be attributed to his client. He can’t be booked for culpable homicide. “It is a commercial complex. What can be [Mr. Bhandari’s] role in the fire incident? This court has already held in the Bhopal gas tragedy and Uphaar cinema hall fire cases that, at the most, these can be a case of negligence, which is a bailable offence and not culpable homicide,” the lawyer said, and added that Mr. Bhandari should be released on bail.

The bench asked Mr. Rohatgi to serve the copy of the habeas corpus petition to counsel for the State government, and decided to hear the matter on March 27.

Mr. Bhandari was arrested in January with fire officer Rajendra Patil and Utkarsh Pandey, who supplied hookahs to Mojo’s Bistro and 1Above, where the fire started. They are in judicial custody. The fire on December 29 last year claimed 14 lives.

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