Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday fixed hearing on Tuesday on the petition of Mumbai”s Kamla Mills co-owner Ravi Surajmal Bhandari, challenging his arrest since January in a fire in two pubs, Mojo’’s Bistro and 1 Above, located in the premises that claimed 14 lives on December 29.
The bench of Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan declied an ex-parte order, directing his senior advocate Mukul Roahtgi, a former Attorney General of India, to serve a copy of his petition on the Maharashtra government before the next hearing on March 27.
Bhandari has claimed in his petition that he cannot be held liable for the fire tragedy in the compound of his premises, describing his arrest as an illegal detention. He is now in the judicial lockup. Rohatgi argued that he cannot be charged with culpable homicide as he had nothing to do with the pubs where the fire broke out.
Bhandari, who has filed a habeas corpus (a writ requiring a person under arrest to be brought before a court) also dubbed his arrest as “illegal detention”. “I can always say that my arrest is illegal detention. It is my right. They have wrongly arrested me for no fault of mine and hence the habeas corpus petition was filed,” Rohatgi said.
Rohatgi said he will file the bail application but the larger question was that the arrest is illegal, as no fault can be attributed to his client.
“I can’t be booked for the offence of culpable homicide. It is a commercial complex. What can be my role in the fire incident? This court has already held in the Bhopal gas tragedy and Uphaar cinema hall fire cases that, at the most, these can be a case of negligence, which is a bailable offence and not culpable homicide,” the senior lawyer said and added that Bhandari should be released on bail.
Bhandari was arrested in January along with fire officer Rajendra Patil and Utkarsh Pandey, who supplied ‘hookahs’ to the pubs Mojo’s Bistro and 1 Above where the fire started. All the three are in judicial custody.
Fourteen persons were killed and several others injured when a fire had broken out at the two pubs in the Kamala Mills compound in central Mumbai on December 29, 2017.
He has come in appeal against rejection of his bail petition by the Bombay High Court. Rohatgi said the offence for which he has been booked is bailable, citing two rulings of the apex court in the Bhopal Gas tragedy and Delhi”s Uphaar Cinema fire that were held as cases of negligence.
(with inputs from agencies)