KARACHI, Jan 14: Police have withdrawn the charge of premeditated murder in a supplementary charge-sheet filed in court in the Baldia Town factory fire case.

Through the public prosecutor, the investigation officer of the case submitted a report in court under Section 173 of the criminal procedure code stating that according to the evidence that came up during the probe, it was not established that the offence also fell under Section 302 (premeditated murder) of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).

According to the report, the owner of the ill-fated industrial unit, Abdul Aziz Bhaila, and his two sons Arshad Bhaila and Shahid Bhaila, general manager Mansoor and gatekeepers Fazal Ahmed, Arshad Mehmood, Ali Mohammad and Shahrukh (absconder) were charge-sheeted only under Sections 322 (punishment for qatl-bis-sabab), 337 (Shajjah) and 34 (common intention) of the PPC read with Section 512 (record of evidence in absence of accused) of the CrPC.

Although a judicial magistrate had on Nov 14 directed the IO to file a supplementary charge-sheet against managing director of SITE Ltd Abdul Rasheed Solangi, labour director Zahid Gulzar Shaikh, additional controller civil defence Ghulam Akbar and chief inspector electrical Amjad Ali, none of them were listed in the column of accused.

The supplementary charge-sheet said that these officials were interrogated but nothing was found about their alleged negligence in the present crime.

In an earlier charge-sheet submitted on Nov 12, the police had not made the officials of SITE and other departments as accused and claimed that they had not committed any criminal negligence and also omitted Sections 435 (mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to cause damage etc.) and 436 (mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy house, etc.) of the PPC. However, the court had declared the omission illegal.

The charge-sheet had also stated that according to the findings of the police, the Federal Investigation Agency and the fire brigade department, the fire broke out in the warehouse of the ground floor of the garment factory due to short circuit.

It also held the factory owners responsible for violating the bye-laws of the SITE Ltd and the Factory Act 1934.

It also added that the owners remained unable to get their industrial unit inspected from the labour department, the civil defence and the electrical inspector. The Sindh Building Control Authority had nothing to do with the building in question since it was the responsibility of the SITE to check the violation of building laws in the area in question, it added.

In the interim charge-sheet, submitted on Oct 4, the police had accused the labour department, the fire brigade, the civil defence, the SBCA, the Sindh Employees Social Security Institution and SITE of non-cooperation in the probe.

It said that no concrete evidence to link the incident with any arson activity was found during the course of the investigation.

Besides Aziz Bhaila, all the charge-sheeted suspects were in custody. The officials of the SITE and other departments were on interim pre-arrest bail.

The case is fixed before a sessions court for hearing on Jan 19 and the court is also likely to give its ruling about the supplementary report.

According to the prosecution, a devastating fire 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 had left over 250 workers dead.

The police had also picked up two other employees Hanif and Mohammad Majid, but they were released since the IO in the interim charge-sheet stated that no concrete evidence was found against them.

A case (FIR 343/12) was registered against the factory owners and others under Sections 302, 322, 435, 436, 337 and 34 of the PPC at the Site-B police station.

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