Kamala Mills case: Hookah, FSI and fire safety violations fanned flames, claim Mumbai police
Compound director misused FSI; hookah supplier ran an illegal biz; BMC officer neglected fire safetymumbai Updated: Jan 22, 2018 09:29 IST
A day after the arrest of a director of Kamala Mills compound, a fire officer and a hookah supplier in connection with the December 29 blaze in Lower Parel, the police have alleged that the trio flouted various guidelines related to fire and property.
The blaze, according to a fire department’s report, started from rooftop restaurant Mojo’s Bistro and spread to its adjoining 1Above, killing 14 people and injuring 55 others. It was attributed to flying embers from a hookah in Mojo’s Bistro.
The three men arrested on Saturday night are Utkarsh Vinod Pande, 28, a hookah supplier; Ravi Bhandari, 57, director of Kamala Mills; and Rajendra B Patil, 52, fire officer. A report highlighting violations and causes prepared by Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) chief Ajoy Mehta was submitted to the state government, Mumbai police commissioner and city mayor Vishwanath Mahadeshwar on Friday.
Yug Tuli, co-owner of Mojo’s Bistro who was arrested on Tuesday, allegedly outsourced the hookah business to Pande. “Pande employed his staff to serve hookah to customers,” said a police officer privy to the investigation, adding that Pande knew that Mojo’s Bistro did not have permission to serve hookah.
“Despite this, Pande went ahead with the deal.” The fire has led to a renewed call, led by Mumbai mayor Vishwanath Mahadeshwar, to ban unregulated hookah parlours in Maharashtra.
On the role of Bhandari, the officer said that he had misused additional floor space index (FSI) by leasing out the terrace to 1Above and Mojo’s Bistro. “The terrace was given on rent when there was no permission, such as commencement certificate, from the civic body,” said the officer. The police are also investigating if Bhandari misused FSI meant for an information technology (IT) park.
According to the state government’s IT policy, Kamala Mills Ltd has received an additional FSI of 1.33. The civic report states: “There is possibility that the Kamala Mills has used commercial areas beyond permissible limits.”
Fire official Patil has been accused for certifying that the restaurants were fire compliant. The police alleged that a week before the fire, he stated that the terrace was not covered.
However, investigations revealed that the it was covered with inflammable materials and sheets, which fuelled the December 29 fire. Patil is the first BMC officer to be arrested in the case.
Besides the trio, the police have arrested 11 people, including three owners, two mangers of 1Above, their friends for sheltering them, and two owners of Mojo’s Bistro.