Two years after factory fire tragedy, trial yet to start

Published August 24, 2014
Firefighters and medical personnel take part of rescue operation in the Baldia Town garment factory in Karachi. — Photo by AFP
Firefighters and medical personnel take part of rescue operation in the Baldia Town garment factory in Karachi. — Photo by AFP

KARACHI: Despite the passage of around two years, the trial of the case pertaining to the devastating fire that broke out in a Baldia Town garment factory in which over 250 workers died has yet to commence, it emerged on Saturday.

The owner of the industrial unit, Abdul Aziz Bhaila, and his two sons — Arshad Bhaila and Shahid Bhaila — general manager Mansoor and some gatekeepers have been booked in the case while on the directive of a magistrate, the then managing director of SITE Abdul Rasheed Solangi, labour department director Zahid Gulzar Shaikh, additional controller of civil defence Ghulam Akbar and chief inspector (electrical) Amjad Ali were also named in the case for their alleged negligence.

However, the case has yet to reach the stage of indictment as the process of supplying copies of evidence to suspects has not been completed while the issue of removal of section of the premeditated murder offence from the last charge-sheet also has remained undecided.

Earlier, the copies of prosecution documents have been partly provided to the suspects as required under Section 265-C (supply of statements and documents to accused) of the criminal procedure code.

The case was fixed before additional district and sessions judge (west) Naushaba Kazi on Saturday for supply of remaining documents, but it was adjourned till Sept 27, since the judge was on leave.

The investigating officer had twice charge-sheeted the owners and others in interim and final charge-sheets under Sections 302 (premeditated murder), 322 (qatl-bis-sabab) and other sections of the Pakistan Penal Code.

But in the supplementary charge-sheet filed earlier in 2013, the IO had shown the four officials innocent and also removed the Section 302 of the PPC against other suspects.

However, the fate of supplementary charge-sheet still hung in the balance since a special public prosecutor opposed the removal of the premeditated murder offence and said that the IO filed it without her permission while the complainant side also moved the high court in this regard.

About the delay in commencement of the trial, court sources said that initially a sessions judge had referenced the case to the district court asking it to transfer the case to any other court for trial.

Moreover, the trial court remained vacant for some time, the IO and the prosecutor were on leave for a few months and some petitions about the case were filed in the high court last year, which were still pending, they added.

According to the prosecution, a devastating fire that engulfed the multi-storey factory building in Baldia Town on the evening of Sept 11, 2012 within the remit of the SITE-B police station, left over 250 workers dead. All the suspects are out on bail.

A case (FIR No 343/12) was registered against the factory owners and others under Sections 302, 322, 435 (mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to cause damage etc), 436 (mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy house, etc), 337 (Shajjah) and 34 (common intention) of the Pakistan Penal Code.

Published in Dawn, August 24th , 2014

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