The three-member committee appointed by the Bombay high court (HC) to enquire into the fire at Kamala Mills in December 2017, has held the owner of the mill and two restaurant proprietors responsible for the incident.
The committee concluded that the “immediate and probable cause” of the fire on December 29, 2017 was burning charcoal from a hookah and that fire safety violations were committed by the owner of Kamala Mills, Ramesh Gowani, and the owners of two rooftop restaurants.
Headed by former chief justice of Kerala high Court Arvind V Sawant, the committee submitted its 200-paged report to the HC, which heard the report in court on Tuesday.
“The immediate and probable cause of the fire was that hookah was being served in southern corner of Mojo’s Bistro Restaurant with the help of charcoal-burning segree on the open terrace with inflammable material and a group of youngsters dancing all around,” said the committee report. The committee also noted that the restaurants didn’t have the necessary no objection certificates (NOCs), provided by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), or fire safety measures like smoke detectors, sirens and fire extinguishers. Additionally, fire escapes were blocked, which increased the fatalities. Gowani was also accused of illegally using extra floor space index (FSI) for commercial purposes.
“We hold that Ramesh Gowani has committed serious violations of the modified DCR-58 (Development Control Regulation) by illegally consuming FSI for commercial purpose, in excess of the permissible 20% of the total FSI,” says the report. Gowani is also guilty of not ensuring that 80% of the total FSI is used for information technology purposes, said the committee and recommended action against him for this “obvious illegal change of user.”
Three officers from the excise department have also been named in the report for dereliction of duty.
The HC had appointed the committee in response to two public interest litigations filed after the fire, one of them by former Mumbai police commissioner Julio Ribeiro. The fire led to the loss of 14 lives.