HC appoints former judge J P Deodhar to head judicial inquiry into Malad building collapse

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Mumbai, Jun 11 (PTI) The Bombay High Court on Friday appointed Justice J P Deodhar, a former judge of the high court, as commissioner to probe the incident of building collapse in suburban Malad here which claimed the lives of 12 persons including eight children.

A bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice G S Kulkarni earlier in the day ordered a judicial probe into the incident. The bench subsequently appointed Justice (retd) Deodhar as inquiry commissioner.

The inquiry will fix accountability for the incident, ascertain if the owner of the building had obtained a prior sanction for construction from municipal authorities, and if any planning or civic authority had taken action such as issuance of notices against the building in the past.

A preliminary inquiry report should be submitted by June 24, the high court said.

During the hearing, the judges said they were immensely pained by the incident in which eight innocent children lost their lives.

Those in charge of the municipal ward of Malvani area where the building stood must be held accountable, it said.

Between May 15 and June 10 this year, four incidents of building collapse were reported in Mumbai and adjoining areas in which a total of 24 people died, the court noted.

'What is happening? How many lives will be lost? What type of buildings are these? Were they identified as dangerous or illegal, but not demolished or were they not identified?' HC said.

'You (municipal authorities) can't play with lives of people. We have to hold those in-charge of the concerned ward responsible. Eight innocent children died on the first day of the rains,' it said.

'This is nothing but lawlessness. You can realise the pain we are facing due to the death of people, including innocent children,' the high court said.

'This pain should also be felt by the corporators. We are shocked. This is a man-made disaster and nothing else. Every monsoon it has to happen. Why it cannot be prevented?' the high court asked.

The court warned the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation and civic bodies of neighboring areas such as Kalyan-Dombivali, Ulhasnagar and Thane that it will initiate strict action if any more incidents of building collapse took place.

The bench was hearing a PIL that it had initiated suo motu (on its own) last year following an incident of building collapse at Bhiwandi in Thane district. While the PIL was not scheduled for a hearing on Friday, the bench took it up taking cognizance of the Malvani incident. The hearing will continue on June 24. PTI AYA NP KRK KRK

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