Owners of Delhi’s Arpit Palace, where 17 died in a blaze, released on bail
The accused were booked under Section 304 of the Indian Penal Code, charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder, which is a non-bailable offence that can attract imprisonment of up to 10 years.Updated: May 18, 2019 08:27 IST
Owners of Hotel Arpit Palace in Karol Bagh, wherein 17 people died in a major fire on February 12, Rakesh and Sharad Indu Goel, were released on a bail of Rs1 lakh each.
Two other employees, Vikas and Rajendra Kumar, who were arrested on February 12, are still in judicial custody.
At 4.43am on February 12, a fire broke out in central Delhi’s Arpit Palace Hotel, which left 17, including three Myanmar nationals, dead and 21 injured. Police named the brothers and the two other employees as the main accused in the matter and they were chargesheeted on May 13.
The accused were booked under Section 304 of the Indian Penal Code, charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder, which is a non-bailable offence that can attract imprisonment of up to 10 years. The court, while releasing them on bail, pulled up the crime branch for booking the accused under the said section.
Additional sessions judge Ashish Aggrawal noted that if registering a case of Section 304 of IPC is accepted to be legitimate, it would imply that whenever there is an incident of fire triggered by short circuit in any household leading to casualties, the owner of the house should be imprisoned.
“That would be illogical,” the judge said.
The police found numerous irregularities in the adoption of safety measures and deviation from the prescribed norms in the building. The police said that the owners failed to comply with the norms due to their financial hardships. In its probe, the police found that the manner in which the owners of Hotel Arpit Palace obtained the clearances were “questionable”.
It submitted that “because of the fact that accused Rakesh Goel was drowned in debt, he could not pay heed to the alarms raised by hotel staff from time-to-time and therefore, arrangements were done nowhere.”
The court, however, observed that the police has not been able to link the deviations and irregularities to the cause of the fire. “The police has not been able to point out which conscious act or omission of the applicant led to the fire breaking out,” the judge said.
The court further noted that assuming that a short circuit led to the fire, the owners could not have anticipated this. It further said that the police did not say that the owners had prior knowledge of the occurrence. “The police has shown, overwhelmingly, that there were irregularities in the upkeep of the hotel, but the said irregularities had allegedly not triggered the fire,” said judge Aggarwal.
The court also remarked that the government, under the Electricity Act, has not launched an inquiry into the cause of the incident. Under this Act, the government can appoint a person to inquire and report on the cause of an accident and the extent to which the rules have been complied with.
On February 16, Rakesh Goel was arrested from the IGI Airport after he returned to India from Qatar. His brother, Sharad Indu Goel, surrendered at the crime branch office in Daryaganj on February 19.