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Kamala Mills: 9 civic officers found guilty after 11 months

Kamala Mills: 9 civic officers found guilty after 11 months

BMC Commissioner accepts inquiry findings, to decide on quantum of punishment

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has found nine officers guilty following a probe into the Kamala Mills fire on December 29, 2017, which killed 14 people. Commissioner Ajoy Mehta will decide on the quantum of punishment soon.

A day after the blaze at two restaurants in the Kamala Mills compound in Lower Parel, Mr. Mehta had suspended five civic officers. They are assistant divisional fire officer Sandip Shinde, designated officer Madhukar Shelar, junior engineer Dharmaraj Shinde, sub-engineer Dinesh Mahale, and medical health officer Satish Badgire.

Eventually, the commissioner submitted a report to the government suggesting that the role of 12 officials including the five suspended officers be probed through a departmental inquiry. The probe was conducted by additional municipal commissioner Vijay Singhal. Charge sheets were filed, and statements and evidence recorded and analysed. A report was submitted to Mr. Mehta on Wednesday, who accepted it.

Those who have been found guilty are Mr. Shelar, Mr. Dharmaraj Shinde, Mr. Mahale, Mr. Sandip Shinde, assistant engineers (building and factory) Manohar Kulkarni, Milind Vhatkar, deputy executive health officer Rajesh Madan, station officer (fire brigade) Rajendra Patil, and sanitary inspector Pradip Shirke.

Mr. Kulkarni was Mr. Vhatkar’s predecessor, and they were found guilty for not taking action against unauthorised constructions. The charges against Mr. Sandip Shinde were that he did not check whether the conditions stipulated in the fire brigade’s NOC were met. The charges against Mr. Shirke, Mr. Badgire, and Mr. Madan were that they did not move to cancel the licenses issued to these restaurants.

Mr. Patil was found guilty as there was a discrepancy in photographs of the terrace of one of the restaurants he had attached to the fire NOC as they did not show the terrace covering, just a week before the incident.

Every one of them has been found guilty of at least one charge. “Their charges are mostly about negligence. They allowed large-scale violations, turned a blind eye, and did not take any action, leading to the disaster. We did not find much merit in their statements,” a civic officer said.

The probe report of three more officers — Prashant Sapkale, assistant municipal commissioner, G-South ward, Bhagyashree Kaapse, former assistant commissioner of G-South ward, and Mr. Badgire — is yet to be submitted. Together, the compiled report will be submitted before the Bombay High Court as a court-appointed committee has been overlooking the matter.

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