Mumbai: BrihanMumbai Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta has now come under the scanner for allegedly saying that he was under tremendous political pressure to "to go slow" on the probe into the devastating fire at two restro-bars in the Kamala Mills Compound on December 29 that killed 14.
Taking a serious note of the shocking disclosure made by the BMC commissioner, the Opposition parties on Saturday asked him to reveal who was pressurising him.
Mumbai Congress president Sanjay Nirupam lashed out at Mehta and challenged him to "reveal" and expose the politician who pressurised the civic body, ruled by the Shiv Sena.
"Mehta should not talk like a politician, Don't make vague statements. Disclose the names of those who pressurised you to drag the probe," Nirupam said.
Nirupam, however, said that Mehta is responsible for the tragedy and he should be booked for it.
"I reiterate that he is responsible for the incident and must be booked for it," Nirupam was quoted as saying by the IANS.
He also asked the BMC chief to declare all the names of the owners of the 17-18 high-end pubs and bars functioning within the Kamala Mills Compound complex, which was the scene of the massive inferno last week that left another 55 injured.
Maharashtra Navnirman Sena spokesperson Sandeep Deshpande too demanded that Mehta should be made to undergo "narco-test" to get to the truth in the matter.
"Who called up Mehta to go slow on the action against illegal constructions in the Kamala Mills Compound - whether it's from the ruling (Shiv Sena) or the Opposition 'bhaiyyas' (Congress)," Deshpande asked.
Reacting to the issue, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray said, ''It has been days since Kamla Mills Fire incident but no arrest has been made till now. We need to see if there is any political pressure on the government (of Maharashtra) to not take action against the accused.''
However, BMC mayor has rejected all allegations and said that those found guilty will not be spared.
Mumbai: Whatever is illegal, whoever did wrong will be punished, no one will be spared. For us, life and safety of people is important: Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation mayor Vishwanath Mahadeshwar on contradictions between findings of police & BMC #KamalaMillsFire pic.twitter.com/7O4GdNwHpX
— ANI (@ANI) January 6, 2018
Stirring a controversy, Mehta late on Friday said that he was under pressure to go slow on the probe after Mumbai Fire Brigade (MFB) submitted its probe report into the pub blaze.
The MFB report has clearly confirmed that the blaze erupted in The Mojo's Bistro and quickly spread to the adjacent '1Above' and other premises, trapping an estimated 400-500 people present there that fateful night.
The BMC chief Mehta will submit the report to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis next week and it effectively corroborates the oft-made contentions of '1Above' pub in the matter that the cause of fire was in 'The Mojo's Bistro', which the latter has countered.
The Mumbai Police, which is investigating the tragic case, is likely to add more names to the list of accused in the FIRs filed in connection with the case.
According to ANI, the Mumbai Police is planning to include more names in the FIRs after it came to light the flying embers from illegal hookah being served at Mojo's Bistro was the probable cause of the massive fire in the Kamala Mills Compound that claimed 14 lives on December 29.
The Mumbai Police is also mulling addition of some new sections of the Indian Penal Code against those accused in the case, said ANI.
The Mumbai Fire Brigade, in its preliminary investigation report, had said that the fire probably started at Mojo's and spread to the adjacent rooftop pub "1 Above".
Inquiry Committee report, which was submitted to the Municipal Commissioner, concluded that fire started from the pub 'Mojo's Bistro' and not from '1Above' as believed earlier.
Most of the victims were trapped in the toilet of the pub and died of suffocation, the Mumbai Police had said earlier.
"It was revealed from most of the eyewitnesses that hookah was served at Mojo's restaurant at the time of fire... There is every possibility that during removal of lighted charcoal from the segree (stove) and or transferring it into Hookah or during the fanning of the charcoal the flying burning embers came in contact with the combustible curtains/ decorative material nearby and started the fire," the report stated.
The report has clarified that none of the two restaurants - Mojo's and 1 Above - had permissions to serve liquor and hookah but still they served them.
Although there was an emergency exit, the pub staff seemed to be unaware of it, it said. Beer kegs near the exit path also blocked the escape and the kegs eventually exploded and escalated the fire, the report said.
Use of bamboo and cloth to make the roof led to the quick spreading of the fire, while wind velocity and direction were the major contributors too, it said.
Rs 1 lakh reward for info on pub owners
Mumbai Police has announced a reward of Rs 1 lakh to those providing information about the whereabouts of the owners of '1 Above' pub in the Kamala Mills Compound.
The pub owners, Kripesh Mansukhlal Sanghvi, Jigar Sanghvi and Abhijeet Mankar, have been absconding ever since a fire claimed 14 lives and injured over 30 others on December 29.
Also, posters of Sanghvi brothers, owners of '1 Above' restaurant and accused in Kamala Mills Fire Compound, have been pasted on their residential building gate in Mazgaon.
An offence of culpable homicide not amounting to murder under sections 304, 337, 338, 34 of the Indian Penal Code was registered against the three at the NM Joshi Marg Police Station following the incident.
A senior Mumbai Police official said that police teams were trying to track the three and a lookout notice had also been issued.
(With PTI inputs)