M. Manoharan (60), Managing Director, Prime Sristi Housing Ltd, whose first construction project in city was the 11-storey building that crumbled, was not too long ago, a clerk with a nationalised bank in Madurai.

The collapse of the building is the biggest construction disaster Chennai has witnessed, with the death toll rising to 19 as of Monday evening. 50 construction workers are feared trapped in the debris. On Sunday, city police arrested Manoharan, his son Muthu Kamatchi and four others, including the building’s architects and structural engineer.

According to police, Manoharan, a native of Madurai, worked as a clerk with the Indian Bank in Madurai before opting for voluntary retirement in 2011. “Post retirement, he turned a full-time real estate dealer and graduated to a ‘well-known’ builder in a short time with the support of a DMK bigwig. Two of his engineers are also natives of Madurai and their professional authenticity is being verified,” said a senior police officer.

Meanwhile, a release from the Council of Architecture, New Delhi, signed by the registrar, has stated that Vijay Bargotra, the 11-storey building’s prime architect, who was arrested along with Manoharan, was not registered with them. As per sections 2 (a), 35, 36, and 37 of the Architects Act, 1972, only a person registered as an architect with the Council can call himself as an architect or function as one in India.

(Additional reporting by Sunitha Sekar)

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