Ludhiana factory tragedy: Accused sent to day’s police remand as public prosecutor fails to turn up

Defence counsel advocate Maninder Pal Singh claimed that the four-storey building is legal and produced documents buttress his claim.

punjab Updated: Nov 24, 2017 14:51 IST
Aneesha Sareen Kumar
Aneesha Sareen Kumar
Hindustan Times, Ludhiana
Ludhiana factory tragedy,Ludhiana factory collapse,police remand
Inderjeet Singh Gola, owner of the five-storey building that collapsed on Monday, killing 13 people.(HT File )

The Ludhiana police were left red-faced on Thursday when the public prosecutor failed to turn up in the court where the owner of a factory that collapsed on Monday after fire killing 13 people was being produced.

With police arguments falling weak in the absence of a professional advocate, the court of judicial magistrate sent the accused to a day’s police remand rejecting the police plea for seven-day custody. Station house officer of Division Number 2 police station contested the case in the court. Inderjit Singh Gola, the owner of the plastic-manufacturing unit, was arrested on Wednesday after the police added sections of culpable homicide not amounting to murder in the case.

Defence counsel advocate Maninder Pal Singh claimed that the four-storey building is legal and produced documents buttress his claim. The absence of a public prosecutor was clearly felt as the SHO was seen fumbling for words while arguing before the judicial magistrate in Punjabi, even as the defence counsel dominated the arguments in his impeccable English.

As the hearing began, SHO Gurwinder Singh pleaded the court to grant seven-day custody to the accused as they need to verify clearances to the factory given by government departments.

Opposing his plea, the defence counsel said: “The factory was registered in 2006 in Industrial Area (A). It is not in a residential area. As per rules, the permissible number of storeys which can be constructed in the area is five. I have submitted to the police the factory’s registration showing that the building was legal. What will the police do by taking the accused in seven-day custody?” asked the defence counsel. Moreover, the inquiry has been marked to the Patiala divisional commissioner, so the police custody is not required, he said.

District attorney Ravinder Abrol said the public prosecutor remained absent from duty and he will take note of the discrepancy on Friday.

Accused breaks down in court

The factory owner broke into tears in the court saying he has lost his business, five efficient workers and two childhood friends in the collapse. Taxi operator Inderpal and Valmiki leader Laxman Prasad, whose bodies were recovered on the day of the collapse, were Gola’s childhood friends. He also said that he is a heart patient and sought medical help when the magistrate ordered that his medical be conducted twice a day.

Why police custody needed

To establish a strong case of culpable homicide against the factory owner, the police need to make a comprehensive chargesheet based on evidences that the building was illegal, had engineering defects and how the owner manipulated records and submitted fake documents. Custodial interrogation is thus required to collect evidences and the alleged manipulation of clearances by departments. The MC and the administration are still searching for documents from various departments.

Commissioner of police RN Dhoke said: “We will plead the court on Friday to extend the police custody of the factory owner. I don’t understand why the public prosecutor was not present in the court.”

First Published: Nov 24, 2017 14:51 IST