Rajkot fire: 18 Gujarat gaming zone owners booked for lapses - Hindustan Times
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Rajkot fire: 18 Gujarat gaming zone owners booked for lapses

May 30, 2024 05:41 PM IST

On May 25, a welding spark triggered the blaze at the TRP Game Zone, gutting the facility in minutes, leading to the deaths of 28 people

The Gujarat Police on Wednesday booked owners of 18 recreation facilities across the state for allegedly running without valid permissions, in a major crackdown on such centres days after 28 people were killed in a fire at a Rajkot gaming arcade.

Debris being removed from the gaming zone site in Gujarat’s Rajkot where a major fire broke out on May 25. (PTI Photo)
Debris being removed from the gaming zone site in Gujarat’s Rajkot where a major fire broke out on May 25. (PTI Photo)

On May 25, a welding spark triggered the blaze at the TRP Game Zone, gutting the facility in minutes. Investigations revealed that the arcade, which was teeming with families at the time of the tragedy, was operating without safety equipment or a clearance.

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Gujarat minister of state for home, Harsh Sanghavi, after holding a meeting with state DGP Vikas Sahay and other senior officers in Gandhinagar, has directed all police commissioners and superintendents of police to register FIRs against the managements of illegal game zones, an official release said. Sanghavi instructed the police officers to register FIRs against the owners of the game zones running without fire NOCs or other mandatory licenses and permissions, it stated.

In Rajkot city, police sealed eight game zones, including a water park, and registered cases against their owners for operating without any permission, police said, adding FIRS were registered under section 336 (Act endangering life or personal safety of others) of the IPC and under provisions of the Gujarat Police Act.

In Ahmedabad, police sealed four such illegal game zones and filed cases against their owners, said police commissioner GS Malik. “As per the law, game zones are first required to take various NOCs regarding fire safety as well as electrical and mechanical safety. They need to get permission from the police by showing these NOCs. None of these four game zones had acquired our permission before starting their operations,” he said.

In Surat, a total of six game zones situated in Rander, Pal, Umara and Vesu areas were sealed and complaints were registered against their owners for running these facilities without valid permissions, police said.

Court issues notice to SIT

A Gujarat court has sought a report from the Special Investigation Team probing the TRP game zone fire on a petition seeking registration of criminal cases against the IPS and IAS officers who were transferred, and others who were suspended after the tragedy.

The ‘criminal inquiry plea’ sought First Information Reports (FIRs) against Rajkot police commissioner Raju Bhargava, municipal commissioner Anand Patel, and two IPS officers who were transferred, and nine officials who were suspended after the May 25 incident which claimed 27 lives.

The transferred officials – Police Commissioner Raju Bhargava, Additional CP Vidhi Chaudhary, DCP Sudhirkumar J Desai – and suspended cops VR Patel, NI Rathod, along with former Rajkot Municipal Commissioner Anand Patel, will face questioning by a Special Investigation Team, according to a senior government official.

The official further stated that 26 out of the 27 bodies from the devastating fire have been identified through DNA matching and handed over to their families, with authorities yet to find claimants for one body.

The Gujarat HC has taken suo motu cognisance of the Rajkot gaming zone fire tragedy and has come down heavily on authorities during the previous hearing, questioning how such a massive structure could come up without requisite permissions and safety clearances. “Were you sleeping?” the court asked.

The court noted that all Rajkot municipal commissioners from 2021 until this incident “should be held accountable for the tragedy” and directed each of them to submit individual affidavits. It also expressed a lack of faith in the “state machinery which gets into action only after innocent lives are lost”.

“There were several lapses in the FIR itself. Also, the JCB (earthmover) was used to bulldoze the entire structure, and a road roller was moved in the surface, all this could amount to destroying evidence. Videos and photographs by forensic experts from the crime scene have also not been done. All this shows that the investigation has not been done properly,” Brijesh Trivedi, Gujarat HC advocate association president, who has intervened in the suo motu petition filed by the court in the matter, told HT.

The home department currently is in the process of preparing comprehensive rules for entertainment and gaming zones and recreational centres, which will include fire NOC, building use permission, and other details, and it will be out very soon, according to a senior government official.

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Tuesday, June 25, 2024
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