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Bawana factory fire: Supplementary charge sheet examines role of three government officials

The role of government officials in the North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC), Delhi Fire Services and the Labour Department has come under scanner in the case of Bawana factory fire

delhi Updated: Sep 16, 2018 11:50 IST
Richa Banka
Richa Banka
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Bawana factory fire,North Delhi Municipal Corporation,government officials
A major fire broke at a three-storey factory in north Delhi's Bawana Industrial Area this evening, in New Delhi, India, on Saturday, January 20, 2018. (HT File Photo)

The role of government officials in the North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC), Delhi Fire Services and the Labour Department has come under scanner in the case of Bawana factory fire, the Delhi police told a court in its supplementary charge sheet. The police also said they are collecting evidence against other civic agencies in the January 20 factory fire, in which 17 persons were charred and many others injured.

The supplementary charge sheet was filed in a city court on August 24. The court is yet to take cognizance of the charge sheet and has fixed October 6 as the next date of hearing.

Though the police have not chargesheeted officers of the agencies under scanner—NDMC factory licencing officer Jagdish Chand Sharma, labour department assistant director RB Singh and deputy chief fire officer Dharam Pal Bhardwaj—they have been accused of negligence in discharging their duty. The three officers could not be chargesheeted as the police did not get a prosecution sanction from the respective departments.

In the charge sheet, police contended that Sharma being the factory licencing officer should have sealed the factory after he had found fireworks being manufactured there. However, he issued a challan (monetary fine) and let the factory continue operating.

On January 10, Sharma fined factory owner Manoj Jain and co-owner Lalit Goel for “work of storage and packing of plastic and flammable crackers, obnoxious and hazardous items in the basement, ground floor and first floor of the factory” without a valid municipal license, the police said.

According to the police, Sharma had earlier said the factory licencing department did not have the authority to seal the premises, and that the power vested with deputy commissioner of the North Narela Zone. However, the police contended that according to The Factories Act, Sharma should have sought assistance of the Delhi labour department to seal the premises, which he did not do.

NDMC public relations officer Yogender Singh Mann said, “We will cooperate with the investigation and take action according to the findings of the case.”

In the charge sheet, the police further claimed that fire officer Bhardwaj was responsible for checking the fire safety of the factory, but he did not.

In response, the fire department said that even though Bhardwaj was in-charge of the area, the inspection has to be referred by the building authorities. “He (Bhardwaj) is the in-charge of the area under which Bawana falls. However, as per the Delhi Fire Services (DFS) Act, building authorities have to refer the case to DFS for inspection. In case of this factory, the case was not referred to us for inspection,” chief fire officer Atul Garg said.

The supplementary charge sheet also states that labour department assistant director RB Singh should have inspected the factory, which he failed to do showing negligence on his part. The police also said that these persons informed the prosecution department about these lapses. “But, they have remained silent on the legal action to be taken and have left it on the investigating officer to take action according to the evidence available,” the charge sheet reads.

Delhi government’s labour commissioner Dilraj Kaur did not respond to HT’s repeated calls and text messages for response in this regard.

Reacting to this development, counsel for the factory owners advocate Pradeep Rana said, “We have stuck to this stand right from the beginning that there was a lapse on the part of the civic authorities. This supplementary charge sheet has proved our point.”

First Published: Sep 16, 2018 03:24 IST