iconimg Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Press Trust Of India
Mumbai, June 18, 2013
A local court granted protection from arrest to the three sons of a former owner of the Altaf Manzil building in Mahim, which collapsed last week killing 10 persons.

Irfan, Sharif and Mohammed Furniturewala filed an anticipatory bail application in the sessions court on Tuesday. The court reserved the hearing till Wednesday and granted the siblings protection from arrest, said advocate AR Sheikh, who is defending the trio.

Apart from the Furniturewalas, the FIR, registered on June 15 named Iqbal Ibrahim - the owner of the shop and the basement on the north side; Sandeep Bafna - the lessee of the shop and basement on the south side; officials of the G/North Ward and officials attached to the BMC head quarters in connection with the collapse.

The portion of Altaf Manzil had caved in on June 10, apparently due to incessant rains and illegal alterations.

All the accused have been booked under sections 288 (negligent to conduct with respect to pulling down or repair building), 304 (culpable homicide), 336 (act endangering life or personal safety), 338 (grievous hurt), 34 (common intention) and 120b (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code, police said.

In their bail application, the Furniturewalas alleged that the FIR was registered by prominent lawyer Rizwan Merchant, who lost his mother, wife and son in the mishap, under media pressure and with a malafide intention to grab their prime property.

"The police have deliberately added wrong sections in the FIR with an intention to detain them for a long period", the bail application said.

The Furniturewalas contended that they were not even remotely connected with the incident which is "purely an act of nature".

"The applicants (Furniturewalas) are not responsible for any offence as alleged against them or for loss of 10 persons who are unfortunate victims of the tragic incident," the bail application said.

The responsibility of maintaining and managing the affairs of the building was taken from the applicants in a high-handed manner by Merchant and other owners of the building, according to the bail application.

"Upon instigation of the complainant, three tenants refused to pay the rent since 2008," said Furniturewalas.

They alleged an ad-hoc committee was appointed in 2010 to take decisions regarding repair, maintenance and redevelopment of the building without their consent.

Furniturewals argued that the building was owned by their grandfather and since its ownership was not rightfully transferred to any heirs after his death, all the 25 heirs are rightful owners.

The bail application further said that the Furniturewalas had in 2007 transferred the ownership of building in the name of respective tenants, after which the tenants formed an association through which they started maintaining the building.

"This shows that the applicants were nowhere connected or consulted for the regular maintenance of the building," says the bail application.

Chief public prosecutor Kalpana Chavan told the court that the contentions of Furniturewalas are false and their own documents reflect that they were acting as the owners of the building and had also collected money.

"It is the applicants (Furniturewalas) who had failed to maintain the building after which Merchant had to chip in to maintain the building," she said.