The Delhi Police on Monday charged the owners of Hotel Arpit Palace, Sharad Indu Goel and Rakesh Goel, along with two of their employees, with culpable homicide not amounting to murder for the February 12 fire tragedy in the Karol Bagh hotel which killed 17 people and left 21 others injured.
In the 42-page chargesheet filed in the Tis Hazari Court, which has been accessed by IANS, the police charged the Goel brothers, the hotel's General Manager Rajender Kumar and Manager Vikas Kumar with different sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
The sections invoked by the police include culpable homicide not amounting to murder (304), attempt to commit culpable homicide (308), cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property (420), forgery of valuable security (467), forgery for the purpose of cheating (468), using forged documents as genuine (471), causing disappearance of evidences of offence (201) and criminal conspiracy (120b).
All the accused are currently facing court proceedings after being released on bail. On February 16, Rakesh Goel was arrested from the IGI Airport after he returned to India from Qatar. His brother Sharad Indu Goel later surrendered before the Crime Branch office in Daryaganj.
A major fire broke out in the Arpit Palace Hotel in central Delhi's Karol Bagh area at 4.43 a.m. on February 12. As many as 25 fire tenders, Centralised Ambulance Trauma Services (CATS) and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams were pressed into the service to bring the situation under control. A total of 17 persons died in the fire tragedy, including three Myanmar nationals.
There were 46 rooms in the hotel out of which 35 were occupied. Sixty guests and 12 employees were inside the hotel when the fire broke out, the chargesheet said."It was found in the probe that the owner of hotel is Sharad Indu Goel whereas the license to run the bar-cum-restaurant was on the name of Rakesh Goel. It has also emerged that the hotel is an unit of Atul Construction Pvt Ltd. Rakesh Goel and his wife Madhuri Goel are the directors of the said company," it said.
The investigation officer said in the chargesheet that there was no panic alarm in the hotel which had only one emergency exit that was shut from outside. An unauthorised kitchen was setup at the rooftop, which was made of inflammable materials such as rubber, ply-board and plastic, and was used by the Goel brothers to earn extra profit. There were no signages for an emergency exit, the chargesheet said.
"None of hotel staff raised an alarm to alert the guests about the fire, which, if done, could have saved the lives of many more. The staircase and corridors of hotel are so narrow that even two persons cannot stand together. There were heavy wooden work in hotel, from the reception to the staircase, corridors, walls and false ceilings.
"During investigation, the police team found broken window frames. The windows installed in the rooms were operated by push buttons. The guests were unaware of the operation of these types of windows and could not open them on the night of the fire," the chargesheet said.
(Sanjeev Pal can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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