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Kamala Mills Fire: Owners of 1 Above Sent to Police Custody

A preliminary probe report by the Mumbai fire brigade revealed that the fire started at Mojo’s pub, and not 1 Above.

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Jigar Sanghvi, Kripesh Sanghvi, and Abhijeet Mankar, the co-owners of the 1 Above pub, arrested in connection with the 29 December fire in Lower Parel’s Kamala Mills compound, were sent to police custody on Thursday for seven days.

“They were produced at Bhoiwada court in Dadar today, which remanded them to police custody till 17 January,” Senior Inspector Ahmed Pathan of NM Joshi Marg police station said.

While the Sanghvi brothers were arrested from suburban Andheri on Wednesday, Mankar was arrested earlier on Thursday from Marine Lines.

The three had been on the run since the fire took place in the early hours of 29 December.

They have been booked for culpable homicide not amounting to murder as well as other offences of the Indian Penal Code. In a related development, the Maharashtra government appointed Advocate Prakash Shetty as the Special Public Prosecutor in the case trial.

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One of Mojo’s Bistro Owners Under Arrest

Earlier on 7 January, Yug Pathak, one of the owners of Mojo’s Bistro – where the blaze reportedly broke out – was sent to police custody for five days by the Bhoiwada court in Mumbai. The court also sent managers of the 1 Above pub – Kevin Bawa and Lisbon Lopez – to judicial custody till 22 January. Vishal Karia (at whose residence the car of one of the accused was found ) has also been sent to police custody till 17 January by the court.

Pathak was arrested on 6 January in connection with the deadly fire on 29 December. Pathak, the son of a retired IPS officer, and his partner, Nagpur-based businessman Yug Tulli, were booked under IPC sections 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), 338 (causing grievous hurt by act endangering life and personal safety of others) and other relevant provisions.

A few hours before the arrest, the names of Pathak and Tulli were added to the FIR, which was lodged on 29 December against the three owners of 1 Above restaurant.

Owners of 1 Above Were Absconding

According to a statement given by a police officer to The Times of India, the three absconding owners had switched off their phones.

Their WhatsApp is not working. Moreover, they have deleted their Facebook profiles in order to avoid arrest. They must be thinking police could track them down with the help of technology.
Police Officer to The Times of India

Hookah at Mojo’s Bistro Blamed for Blaze

A preliminary investigation report by the Mumbai fire brigade on Friday, 5 January, had revealed that the blaze in the Kamala Mills compound is likely to have started at Mojo’s Bistro pub – and spread to the adjacent rooftop pub, 1 Above. Flying embers from the illegal hookah being served at Mojo's Bistro was the probable cause of the fire, the report said.

The fire that broke out in Lower Parel’s Kamala Mills compound early on 29 December claimed 14 lives. Most of the victims were trapped in the toilet of the pub and died of suffocation, the police had said earlier.

According to the report, most eyewitnesses confirmed that hookah was being served at Mojo’s Bistro at the time of the fire.

There is every possibility that during removal of lighted charcoal from the stove and/or transferring it into hookah or during the fanning of the charcoal, the flying burning embers came in contact with combustible curtains/decorative material nearby and started the fire.
Mumbai fire brigade’s investigative report

Neither of the restaurants – Mojo's Bistro and 1 Above – had permissions to serve liquor or hookah. But they served them nonetheless.

There were several violations of fire safety norms by both the pubs.

Emergency Exit Blocked

Although there was an emergency exit, the pub staff seemed to be unaware of it, the report said. Beer kegs near the exit path blocked the escape and the kegs exploded, escalating the fire, the report said.

The use of bamboo and cloth to make the roof led to the fire spreading quickly, fuelled by wind velocity and direction, the report said.

Mumbai Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta said the action against illegal alterations and construction at commercial establishments will continue.

"We will start taking action across the city against all commercial restaurants and pubs and those who have illegal alterations. They have respite for 15 days so that they have time to remove the illegal constructions on their own without damaging their reputation," he said.

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Report Sought From BMC

In the meantime, the State Human Rights Commission on Thursday, 4 January, sought a detailed report on the tragedy from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).

In a letter to Mehta, the human rights body sought a report by 29 January. This follows a complaint lodged by activist Vivekanand D Gupta.

The incident prompted the BMC to launch the single-biggest demolition drive of all illegal constructions and structures in hotels, restaurants, eateries across the city for four consecutive days – in around 700 locations.

Now, the drive has been halted but all such outlets have been given two weeks time to demolish all the structures on their own, failing which the BMC would dispatch its bulldozers.

(With IANS, PTI and ANI inputs)

(This is a developing story and will be updated)

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