Arpit hotel fire: Owners indulged in violations, says police chargesheet

The Goel brothers, owners of the Arpit Palace, allegedly resorted to violations of various kinds and indulged in forgery to get licences to run the hotel where a fire killed 17 people and caused injuries to 21 others in February, according to a chargesheet filed by the Delhi Police in a court here.

In a 42-page chargesheet filed in Tis Hazari Court and accessed by IANS, the police have charged Rakesh Goel and his brother Sharad Indu Goel, hotel General Manager Rajender Kumar and Manager Vikas Kumar under various sections of the IPC.

These are Punishment for 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 purpose of cheating (468), using forged documents as genuine (471), causing disappearance of evidences of offense (201), punishment of criminal conspiracy (120b) and Act done by several people in furtherance of common intention under various sections of Indian Panel Code.

The Crime Branch charged Rakesh Goel and Sharad Indu Goel with using forged documents for obtaining Health Trade Licence (HTL) from Public Health Department of North Delhi Municipal Corporation, Fire Safety Certificate (NOC) from Delhi Fire Department, licence to run the guest house from Delhi Police Licensing Unit, Certificate for Pest Control, licence for running restaurant and other department licences.

It was found in the investigation that both the Goel brothers used fake structural stability certificate, fake stamps, affidavits by a fake architect company "BL Chabbra & Associate" to support their documents in every government department to obtain licences, said the chargesheet in the February 12 tragedy.

It also said that one Virender Nagar helped Goel brothers in giving them the affidavits filed by BL Chabbra & associate, architect of property. Virender Nagar is absconding in the case.

It was also found that Rakesh Goel used to make fake signatures of brother Sharad Indu Goel for renewal of licences, the chargesheet alleged.

Goel brothers showed fake structural stability certificate made by BL Chabbra & Associate.

"It was found in one such affidavit filed by BL Chabbra & Associate, architect of property, that the total height of the hotel building in terms of clause 2.11 of building byelaws is 14.98 meters. To support this affidavit tendered by Sharad Indu Goel, affirming and declaring that he is the proprietor of hotel and that the total height of the building in terms of byelaws is 17.5 meters up to fifth floor, pantry and terrace. But now he had closed the pantry on terrace, therefore the total height of the building comes to 14.5 meters," it said.

"The investigation suggested that both of those documents bear forged signatures of BL Chabbra. The declaration was totally false," it said, adding the actual height of hotel building (up to fourth floor) is more than 15 meters.

The chargesheet said the letter-head of BL Chabbra & Associate contains landline numbers comprising seven digits that were discontinued by MTNL several years ago.

"Goel brothers were using the fake old letters of this firm with the department concerned to procure licences," it added.

"When investigation team reached at Council of Architecture at India Habitat Center to check the status of BL Chabbra & Associate, the registrar, RK Oberoi responded that no person with the name of the said company was registered with Architects and Engineering," it added.

Goel brothers also used two fake affidavits for getting fire NOC from the Fire Department.

In one such affidavit placed in the file belonged to BL Chabbra, architect affirming and declaring that he inspected the hotel building as supporting documents.

"It was revealed that Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) sent a show-cause notice to Arpit Palace hotel as it was operating without valid consent to operate. As the hotel neither applied for consent to operate nor did it submit any reply to the show-cause, the DPCC in its notice on January 23, 2019 sent direction for closure of the hotel," it added.

Safety arrangements were also found missing or non-operational, the police said, adding none of the staff at the hotel was trained in fire fighting or was aware about basic drill in fire safety.

(Sanjeev Pal can be contacted at sanjeev.p@ians.in)