MUMBAI – Shiv Sena leader Sunil Shitap was arrested on Wednesday and charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder in connection with Tuesday’s building collapse that claimed 17 lives, an official said.
Shitap, who was detained on Tuesday night, was formally arrested early on Wednesday and slapped with various charges under the Indian Penal Code including “culpable homicide not amounting to murder”.
He was presented before a magistrate and remanded in police custody till August 2.
According to police and BMC, Shitap was the owner of a nursing home on the ground floor of the four-story dilapidated private building, Sai Darshan, in Ghatkopar, which had 15 flats.
Preliminary investigation revealed that Shitap was allegedly carrying out illegal repairs and renovation of the nursing home to convert it into a guest house.
He reportedly demolished a supporting main pillar of the residential building which could have weakened the old structure and led to its sudden collapse on Tuesday morning.
The building residents and neighbours said they had repeatedly warned Shitap against making any structural changes but he ignored their pleas.
The crash found its echo in the monsoon session of Maharashtra Assembly which was adjourned thrice on Wednesday morning as a belligerent opposition demanded a discussion on the matter.
Senior Nationalist Congress Party leader Ajit Pawar alleged that, as per documents available with him, the accused was planning to convert the nursing home into a liquor bar.
The Congress and other parties alleged that civic officials were reluctant to take action against Shitap due to the ruling Shiv Sena.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis announced an ex gratia payment of Rs 200,000 to the next of kin of each deceased and Rs 100,000 to each permanently disabled, besides full cost of medical treatment for all the injured.
Meanwhile, the death toll in the building crash shot up to 17 and the search was called off after 30 hours.
Late on Tuesday, Fadnavis, who has ordered a probe into the crash, visited the spot.
“It is a very sad and unfortunate incident,” he said, adding that the enquiry report would be submitted in a fortnight.
After meeting the victims and residents, Fadnavis promised strict action against those responsible for the disaster.
So far, 28 persons have been rescued, but a few more were still feared trapped under the rubble, said a BMC statement on Wednesday afternoon.
It added that contrary to reports, the building did not figure in the BMC’s list of dangerous structures as it was privately owned.
The displaced survivors — who lost all their belongings including clothes, money, jewellery — have been housed temporarily in local schools.
The government has assured that redevelopment permissions required to rebuild Sai Darshan building would be granted on priority.