The Bombay high court on Tuesday quashed criminal proceedings against four civic officials, including the then municipal commissioner Sitaram Kunte, holding them responsible for the collapse of Baba Genu Market building on Dockyard Road in Mazgaon in September 2013, in which 61 people died and 33 others were injured.
The other officers whom the bench of justices Abhay Oka and Amjad Sayed granted relief include additional municipal commissioners, Rajiv Jalota, Manisha Mhaiskar and Mohan Adtani.
A magistrate on November 5, 2014 issued the process for offence under Section 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) against the civic officials on a complaint by labour union leader Sharad Rao.
It was argued that the civic officials were responsible under section 354 (removal of dangerous structures) of the BMC Act, as instead of vacating the building, they appointed a structural auditor.
The bench, however, held that by no stretch of imagination, section 304 of IPC could have been applied. Also, that even 304 A could not be applied as no rash act or negligence can be attributed to the civic officials.
The court noticed that the report of a civic engineer, referred by Rao, was of visual inspection while the structural auditor undertook several tests. The judges said even assuming whatever is stated in the complaint is correct, it could not be said that they had knowledge that the building was likely to collapse and cause loss of lives.
The bench struck down the magistrate’s order saying there was absolutely no material for the magistrate to proceed.