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Kamala Mill fire: Restaurants violated safety norms, says probe panel

Judicial panel, constituted to probe Mumbai's Kamala mill fire incident has pointed towards serious violations by different stakeholders including landowners, restaurant owners, architects and government officials. The tragedy that took place at the Kamala Mills compound in Lower Parel locality in Mumbai in the wee hours of December 29 claimed lives of 14 people and injured many.

The three-member committee headed by Justice Arvind V. Savant, former Chief Justice, High Court of Kerala submitted its report and recommendations before Bombay high court on Monday.

The report mentioned that mill land owner had committed serious deviations or violations of two No Objection Certificate (NOC's) granted by the fire officer. It also suggested that the owners of two restaurants '1 Above' and 'Mojo's Bistro' have committed serious violations of NOC granted by the Ministry of Health (MOH). Judicial panel also demanded strict action against them.

The report has claimed that three officers of excise department were grossly negligent in the discharge of their duties. It also said that the architect was not acting responsibly and it is absolutely necessary to initiate appropriate action against him. The panel called for a thorough criminal prosecution against the concerned architect, if necessary.

The recommendation also entails requirement for having some statutory regulatory body for the interior designer and contractor.

Commenting on the contents of the probe panel report, Advocate Sujay Kantawala said, "Report has observations regarding violations by owners of this entire area and owners of restaurants,'1 Above' and 'Mojo's Bistro'. There's severe indictment as to the role of various departments and BMC officials. Now strict action will have to be taken. The appropriate prosecution will have to be launched against all, including architecture and interior designers. There were no physical inspections, it was all on paper. It's a clear case of corruption."

Elaborating further on the role of restaurant owners, the advocated added, "Restaurants' owners are guilty of violations. Rear site staircase for escape from the terrace was blocked by stacking inflammable material, like kerosene and liquor. The entire terrace was used for smoking and for serving hukkah. There was no safety measure.