Hookah at Mojo’s Bistro led to Kamala Mills fire: report

Commission points out serious violation of rules by owners of two restaurants

An independent commission that investigated the fire at Kamala Mills Compound that claimed 14 lives on December 29, 2017, has concluded in its report that the hookah served at Mojo’s Bistro restaurant led to the fire.

The commission said, “The immediate and probable cause of fire was that hookah was being served in the southern corner of Mojo’s Bistro restaurant with the help of charcoal burning segree on the open terrace with inflammable material all around and a crowd of youngsters dancing around.”

‘Take criminal action’

The report was submitted to the Bombay High Court after the hearing of a public interest litigation plea, filed by former commissioner of police through advocate Sujay Kantawalla, seeking an independent probe. On February 16, a committee was formed comprising Arvind V. Savant, retired justice of Kerala High Court; Vasant Thakur, an architect; and K. Nalinakshan, former municipal commissioner and principal secretary of the urban development department.

The commission, in its report, said, “Criminal proceedings be initiated against Kamala Mills owner Ramesh Gowani. He has committed serious deviations/violations of the two no objection certificates (NOCs) granted by the fire officer. In fact, it is clear that the conditions of the two NOCs were honoured by him more in breach than in observance. Hence, necessary action needs to be initiated against him for the said breaches.”

The report said that Mr. Gowani had committed serious violations of the modified development control regulations by “illegally consuming floor space index (FSI) for commercial purposes in excess of the permissible 20% of the total FSI”. It said that there Mr. Gowani committed a serious violation committed by “not ensuring that there was genuine IT user of 80% of the total permissible FSI”. The committee said that there was obviously an illegal change of user and necessary action must be initiated against him for these violations at the earliest.

The 206-page report read, “The owners of the two restaurants — Mojo’s Bistro and 1Above — have committed serious violations of the conditions stipulated under the NOCs granted by the medical officer health. Hence, necessary actions needs to be initiated against them. Officers of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporations are guilty of serious dereliction of duty and for unlawful conduct in the discharge of their duties in relation to the approvals and sanctions granted to the owners of the restaurants.”

The report named officers from the Industries and Excise departments for gross negligence in discharge of duties. They include Sanjay Korabu, a mechanical engineer who is the Joint Director of Industries; Suresh Londhe, an electrical engineer who is the Joint Director of Industries; A.T. Patil, a mechanical engineer who is the Deputy Director of Industries; Anil Chaskar, Superintendent of State Excise; Sandeep More, Inspector State Excise; and Vijay Thorat, Inspector State Excise.

‘Police not at fault’

The report did not find fault with police officials, but said architect B.R. Gandhi did not act responsibly in the discharge of his duties. The report said, “the Council of Architects should initiate appropriate action against him and his role should be thoroughly investigated by the Municipal Commissioner and, if necessary, criminal prosecution should be initiated against him.”

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Printable version | May 22, 2020 4:14:41 AM |

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