The Gujarat High Court has sought a detailed report from the state government on the investigation into the Surat fire tragedy that claimed lives of 22 students of a coaching institute last month. Hearing a petition seeking a probe by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) into the incident, Justice S H Vora asked the government to submit its report by July 24.
The court also issued a notice to the state government on the petition moved by Jaysukh Gajera, father of a 17-year- old girl, who died in the fire at a four-storey commercial complex in Surat. Gajera, while demanding that the probe into the incident be transferred to the state CID, also sought action against civic officials for allegedly regularising the illegal construction in complex. The petition will be taken up for next hearing on July 25.
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Gajera in his petition said the victims’ kin have “reasonable apprehension that the investigation will not be impartial and independent, and the responsible officers will go scot-free”. The police appears to be shielding officials of the Surat Municipal Corporation who were responsible for regularising the “illegal construction” in the complex, the petition alleged. “The whole incident took place because there were no safety measures in the building and the said illegal structure was regularised by the authorities,” it claimed.
According to the police, the probe revealed presence of inflammable material, including flex banners and tyres, on the fourth floor of the complex that led the fire to spread quickly. So far, nine persons have been arrested in connection with the incident. Those arrested include builders of the complex, officials of the Surat Municipal Corporation, and owner of the tuition classes which the students attended.
Twenty-two students, including 18 girls, of an art and craft coaching institute died in the devastating fire that engulfed the four-storey Takshashila Arcade in Sarthana area of Surat on May 24. Preliminary probe revealed that use of highly inflammable material and tyres, which doubled up as chairs in the coaching class, caused the fire to spread rapidly, a senior state government official said last month.