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Mumbai building collapse: HC asks police not to arrest advocate

Bombay-HCObserving that advocate Sindha Shreedharan, charged with culpable homicide following collapse of a building in Mumbai killing seven persons, cannot be held solely responsible, Bombay High Court directed police not to take coercive steps against her or any BMC official.

A division bench of Justices Anoop Mohta and M S Sonak was hearing a bunch of petitions filed by Shreedharan challenging the eviction notice issued by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) in April 2008 asking all the tenants to vacate the seven-storey building in suburban Vakola as it was dilapidated.

While all tenants were evicted, Shreedharan’s family refused to vacate their ground floor premises due to dispute with the landlords.

On March 14, the building collapsed killing seven persons, including Shreedharan’s sister, and injuring four others. Police on Monday registered a case of culpable homicide against Shreedharan and unnamed BMC officials for failing to take steps for eviction and building’s demolition.

“The BMC has also not taken any steps towards eviction or demolition of the building. How can the BMC put burden on the petitioner alone as being responsible for the collapse? If the building was in a dilapidated condition since 2008, what steps has the corporation taken? Can only the petitioner be blamed?” Justice Mohta said.

The court was informed that Shreedharan had in March 2010 obtained a stay on the eviction notice from the High Court. The corporation had moved the court in 2013 challenging the stay order. “So your (BMC) basic cause of action is that nothing could be done because of the stay order. How can that be the basis of the petitioner’s arrest?” the court said.

Stating that the matter will have to be heard in detail before passing any order, the court directed the police to not take any coercive steps like arrest against the petitioner or any BMC official. The court directed all the parties involved to file their affidavits and supporting documents and posted the petition for hearing on 15 April.

Shreedharan alleged that she was being targeted by land sharks, Shiv Sena politicians and the BMC officials. “I cannot be held liable for the collapse. If I am arrested today I will be killed in custody. Shiv Sena politicians are instigating the locals against me,” she alleged.

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