Police custody for two builders

Pune: A court here on Tuesday extended till July 6 the police custody of two builders arrested in connection with the wall collapse incident in Kondhwa area in which 15 labourers were killed. Vipul Agarwal and Vivek Agarwal were arrested on Saturday after a portion of 22-foot-high compound wall of a housing society collapsed on adjoining shanties of construction workers following heavy rains. Judicial Magistrate (First Class) A S Deshpande extended their custody till July 6. Vipul and Vivek are partners in Alcon Landmarks that had built the housing complex.

Seeking further police custody of the two on Tuesday, the prosecution argued that on April 15, the chief engineer of the Pune Municipal Corporation had instructed all the builders in the city to shift settlements of construction workers to safer places, away from walls, trees and nullahs. “It was the accused's responsibility to inform about such directions to builders from Kanchan Royal Exotica project,” the prosecutor said. The labourers who died in the incident were working for the Kanchan Royal Exotica project. Vipul and Vivek Agarwal also know the whereabouts of the other accused but were not forthcoming with information, therefore they needed to be quizzed further, the prosecution added.

Residents of the housing society have alleged that they had warned the builders in February about the wall tilting outward, but no action was taken. “It is also needed to be investigated whether the wall was constructed as per the (sanctioned) design and whether it was capable of withholding pressure,” the prosecutor said. Meanwhile, the sessions court rejected anticipatory bail applications filed by three partners of Kanchan Royal Exotica. The case registered by Kondhwa police after Saturday's tragedy also names partners of Kanchan Royal Exotica project.

Pankaj Vora, Suresh Shah and Rashmikant Gandhi had approached the court here with a pre-arrest bail applications but judge S M Deshpande rejected the pleas. Advocate Sudhir Shah, representing Vora, argued that the wall was of the housing society built by Alcon Landmarks, and his client had nothing to do with its construction. The labourers' shanties on the plot of Kanchan Royal Exotica were 15 feet away from the wall, he said. Besides, Vora and his firm were not aware of the fragile condition of the wall, the lawyer added.

The applicants also said they could not be charged under IPC section 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder). At the most, they could be booked under IPC section 304-A (death caused by negligence), which is a bailable offence, they added. However, the judge, refusing to grant any relief, said it was a serious case and the investigation was at the preliminary stage. Kondhwa police said they have issued look-out notices against Shah, Gandhi and Vora.

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