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Monday, May 6, 2013

CUFFE PARADE TINDERBOX No relief for hsg society panel in fire safety case

Mumbai: Office-bearers of Jolly Maker-I cooperative housing society in Cuffe Parade suffered a setback on Monday when the Bombay high court turned down their plea to quash a criminal case filed against them by the civic body for lapses in fire safety norms. 

    The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation's (BMC) fire department had filed a case against society secretary Pishu Mahtani (70) and others after a fire broke out on the 19th floor of the 25-storey tower on December 2, 2012. Jolly Maker-I is one of the richest housing societies in the city. 
    The case was filed under the Maharashtra Fire Prevention and Life Safety Measures Act, a fairly recent law with tough provisions to punish violators. This is the first major case under the fire safety law, said sources, adding that its progress is expected to be followed keenly by activists and the administration alike. 
    Stating that the fire safety equipment on the building premises was "defunct", the BMC has accused the managing committee of negligence. The HC, which stayed the criminal proceedings so far, has now dismissed the petition filed by Mahtani and six others. They sought quashing of the criminal complaint on the ground that they alone cannot be held responsible and that all members should be taken to task for mainte
nance of the fire safety equipment. 
    Anita Sekhri, in whose 19th floor flat the fire broke out, had also intervened in the matter before the high court. She supported the BMC's action against the society's managing committee for fire safety lapses. Sekhri had even claimed that the water tank reserved for firefighting was converted into a flush tank without proper permissions, thereby endangering lives. 
    Civic counsel Prakash Naik had argued that all the committee members were liable to be prosecuted under Section 73 of Cooperative Societies Act, which stipulates that managing committees are responsible for the society. He said the managing committee is not meant to do any act that is detrimental to the society's interest.


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