No govt dept has replied to queries regarding Mehran Town factory fire, IO tells court

Published September 16, 2021
A Rangers official stands guard, after a fire broke out at a multi-storey chemical factory, in Karachi, on August 27.— Reuters/File
A Rangers official stands guard, after a fire broke out at a multi-storey chemical factory, in Karachi, on August 27.— Reuters/File

KARACHI: Police on Wednesday filed an interim investigation report in the Mehran Town factory fire case stating that none of the provincial government departments and civic agencies had come up with the actual cause of death of 16 workers that had died in a fire in the industrial unit.

The fire allegedly caused by an electric short-circuit engulfed the industrial unit, BM Luggage, on Aug 27 killing the 16 workers.

Factory’s owner Hassan Meetha alias Ali Meetha, its building’s owner Faisal Tariq, three supervisors — Syed Imran Ali Zaidi, Zafar and Rehan — and watchman Syed Zarin have been booked for their alleged involvement in the incident.

Police had first arrested the watchman and later Meetha, Tariq and Zaidi were also arrested after District and Sessions Judge (East) Khalid Hussain Shahani had revoked their interim pre-arrest bail granted to them on Aug 30 against a surety of Rs500,000 each.

On Wednesday, the investigating officer, Sub-inspector Izat Khan, submitted an interim investigation report before the judicial magistrate (East).

IO granted time to file final investigation report

In the interim report, the IO mentioned that four suspects, including the owners of the factory and its building, were in judicial custody on remand. He added that two supervisors of the factory, Zafar and Rehan, were still absconding and efforts were under way to arrest them and produce before the court.

He informed the court that the DVR [digital video recorder] and nine bags full of samples of the evidence collected from the factory building had already been sent to the Forensic Science Laboratory of the University of Karachi and reports on the actual cause of the fire were still awaited.

IO Khan added that the relevant provincial government departments and civic agencies had already been included by widening the scope of the investigation into the incident.

He said that while dismissing the bail pleas of the owners, the judge had observed that “the authorities, who failed to discharge their functions include the Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA), labour department and inspectors, deputy commissioner concerned, Karachi Development Authority (KDA) and Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (Civil Defence Department). These all are responsible for the offence and ought to be implicated, investigated and taken to the task for the alleged crime”.

In light of the court’s observations, the IO said he had issued summons to the relevant officers/officials of K-Electric, SBCA, Sindh Civil Defence, Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan, the KDA, Anti-Encroachment Cell, the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board, fire brigade and Sui Southern Gas Company Limited.

Issuing letters under Sections 160 (police officer’s power to require attendance of witnesses) and 94 (summons to produce documents or other things) of the Criminal Procedure Code, the IO said he had summoned the officers/officials of these departments and agencies along with their respective reports with regard to action, if any, taken against the owners of BM Luggage (Pvt) Limited for running commercial activity in a structure officially approved for residential usage.

He further said that the fire department had particularly been asked to submit a report, replying to queries about the reporting of the fire incident, timing of their response and whether the blaze was caused by an electric short-circuit or gas leakage, etc.

He submitted that no reply had so far been received from any of these departments and agencies, adding that it was expected that they would respond in this week. Therefore, he requested the court to accept the interim investigation report and grant time for filing the final one.

While accepting the interim report, the judge granted time to the IO for filing final investigation report till Sept 18.

A case was registered under Sections 322 (manslaughter) and 34 (common intention) of the Pakistan Penal Code at the Korangi Industrial Area police station.

Published in Dawn, September 16th, 2021

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