Court pulls up cops, fire department, MCD for Arpit Palace blaze
The court noted that deviation had been allowed by Delhi Police, MCD and Delhi Fire Services (DFS) and said the officers from the agencies had committed criminally culpable acts by allowing the law to be flouted .Updated: May 30, 2019 08:19 IST
A city court on Wednesday pulled up the Delhi Police, MCD officials and Delhi Fire Services (DFS) while granting bail to two employees of Hotel Arpit Palace in Karol Bagh. The blaze on February 12 this year had claimed 17 lives.
The court noted that deviation had been allowed by Delhi Police, MCD and Delhi Fire Services (DFS) and said the officers from the agencies had committed criminally culpable acts by allowing the law to be flouted.
The court said the hotel was being openly run in spite of the glaring irregularities and deviations. “This is not possible unless there is active connivance of government authorities including the police.” It observed that the hotel had secured all the licences — including that to serve liquor — at the illegal banquet hall running in the basement. “.....Agencies were more than willing to provide the licence in spite of the apparent deviations itself shows that they were hand-in-glove with the accused,” said additional sessions judge Ashish Aggarwal.
The court noted the loopholes in the building construction pointed by the police. Police had found that “construction of the hotel premises was illegal and unauthorized” with a two-and-half storey building “revamped to a six-storey building”. The banquet hall was “running in the basement without permission”. It also found a kitchen-cum-open restaurant being run without authorization on the roof-top.
The probe also revealed that the accused had submitted a forged certificate, purportedly issued by an architect, to obtain permission to run a guest house.
Turning a blind eye
The judge noted that despite the unauthorized constructions, the agencies did not act. “.... But they disregarded their duty for reasons best known to them....They did not even bother to verify the genuineness of the certificate or to find out if the architect who gave the certificate existed,” the judge said.
Every hotel or a lodging house needs a license from DCP (licencing) to run it, under the Delhi Police Act. For obtaining the licence, the application form has to be accompanied with land ownership proof, rent agreement and the site and building plan and the premise has to be inspected by the licence branch. The court noted that the then DCP (licencing), who later served as police commissioner, issued the license without considering that prescribed documents were missing.
While commenting on the role of municipal agencies, the court said “the building was constructed in blatant disregard of municipal bylaws but the officers of MCD were not inclined to act. So they allowed the building to be constructed and then never visited the premises to see if any demolition/sealing is to be done.”
The court said that officers of Delhi Police, MCD and DFS officials must be held responsible
for acts and omissions that contributed to the fire and loss of lives.
While granting bail ,the court questioned the role of the crime branch — which is investigating the fire — for not acting against government officers responsible.
The Delhi Fire Services chief Atul Garg said he could not comment as he had not seen the order.
The North body commissioner Varsha Joshi added they are already taking full-fledged action internally.