Crime branch forms SIT to probe Ghatkopar hoarding collapse case | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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Crime branch forms SIT to probe Ghatkopar hoarding collapse case

ByManish K Pathak
May 22, 2024 09:04 AM IST

The team conducted searches at Ego Media director Bhavesh Bhinde’s office and residence in Mulund and seized several documents related to the hoarding

MUMBAI: The crime branch has formed a Special Investigation Team (SIT) under the supervision of deputy commissioner of police Vishal Thakur to investigate the Pant Nagar hoarding collapse, in which 16 people lost their lives.

Mumbai, India. May 15, 2024: Over the past 40 hours, NDRF and Mumbai Fire Brigade officials have been carrying out search and rescue operations at the site of a billboard collapse in the Chedanagar area of Ghatkopar, Mumbai. This incident occurred due to heavy rain and strong winds, resulting in the loss of fourteen lives and leaving 75 others injured. May 15, 2024. (Photo by Raju Shinde/HT Photo)
Mumbai, India. May 15, 2024: Over the past 40 hours, NDRF and Mumbai Fire Brigade officials have been carrying out search and rescue operations at the site of a billboard collapse in the Chedanagar area of Ghatkopar, Mumbai. This incident occurred due to heavy rain and strong winds, resulting in the loss of fourteen lives and leaving 75 others injured. May 15, 2024. (Photo by Raju Shinde/HT Photo)

The hoarding, owned by Ego Media Pvt Ltd and measuring 120x120 feet, collapsed during a squall on May 13. Bhavesh Bhinde, the proprietor of Ego Media, was subsequently booked under sections 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), 337 (causing hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others), 338 (causing grievous hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others) and 34 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code. He was arrested from a hotel in Udaipur last Thursday and remanded in police custody till May 26.

On Tuesday, the SIT visited the Veermata Jeejabai Technological Institute (VJTI) to seek expert opinion regarding the structural and technical aspects of the collapsed hoarding, said an officer. The team has also conducted searches at Bhinde’s office and residence in Mulund and seized several documents related to the hoarding besides recording statements of seven people, including some of Bhinde’s employees, said a police officer.

Additionally, the SIT has sent letters to at least six banks where Bhinde and his firms have accounts, asking for details of transactions over the past 3-4 years. It has also communicated with the Government Railway Police (GRP), allottees of the Ghatkopar land where the hoarding stood, seeking documents related to Ego Media and the terms and conditions of the agreement between the GRP and the firm, added the officer.

The police claim that soon after Bhinde got wind of the hoarding collapse, he fled from the city to Lonavala by road before returning to Shil Phata in Thane. From there, he went to Ahmedabad by train and then boarded a bus to Udaipur, where he checked into a hotel under a false identity. He remained there till he was apprehended by police on May 16.

Advocate Rizwan Merchant, who represented Bhinde in court, claimed his client did not hold any post in Ego Media when the GRP awarded the contract for the hoarding to the firm. He claimed that the terms and conditions of the contract were fixed on July 7, 2022, and the contract was awarded on November 22, 2022, whereas Bhinde became the director of the firm more than a year later, on December 21, 2023.

Merchant further claimed that the hoarding collapse was an act of god, as the city was lashed by strong winds with a speed of 96 km/hour, which also led to the collapse of a steel structure in Wadala. He claimed that the charge of causing death by negligence against Bhinde was not applicable, as the structural audit report of the hoarding said it was safe and sound.

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