Mundka fire: the owner of the building “may have used false documents”

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The owner of the four-story commercial building that caught fire last week in Mundka has been taken into custody for a day as investigators try to verify whether the documents and licenses he had were legitimate. The owner of the building, Manish Lakra, was arrested two days after the fire killed 27 and had been in custody ever since. Sources said the investigation has so far suggested that Lakra and his family may have obtained fake permits and documents to obtain a clearance certificate from the MCD in 2016.

“The owner obtained a permit from the MCD in 2016, but it was later revoked. One must have a Fire CNP (Certificate of No Objection) and other licenses to operate such a commercial space. We suspect Lakra was using fake or falsified documents,” an officer said on condition of anonymity.

Atul Garg, the Delhi Fire Service Chief, said: ‘We never gave the building a fire NOC. According to our records, they never asked for a certificate.

While the fourth floor of the building had a penthouse where Lakra and his family lived, the other floors were rented out to owners of Cofe Impex Pvt Ltd, brothers Harish and Varun Goel, in 2017.

“The owner did not have permission to operate the building as a commercial space at the time. We are reviewing all documents,” the officer said.

Police also arrested the Goel brothers for alleged negligence in running the place illegally. Sameer Sharma, DCP (Outer), said: ‘We have one day custody for the three. For the Goel brothers, we need to know their background, business details, permissions needed to run the place, etc.

Police said they would also take blood samples from the Goel brothers for DNA profiling testing at the Rohini Forensic Science Lab. Police say the Goel brothers have also filed a complaint that their father Amarnath Goel has been missing since the fire.

“We recovered 27 bodies and 27 missing names. To verify the Amarnath body, we will take a sample from the Goel brothers to compare and match the unidentified charred bodies,” an officer said.

Meanwhile, the Delhi Fire Service said it filed a complaint with the police last year over the use of fake fire CNPs in West and North Delhi.

“To get a BSES connection in a building that is 15 meters or more in height, owners must have a fire NOC. When some requests came for verification, we discovered that the NOCs were wrong. We have issued advisories, but we believe no action has been taken by the police in these cases,” a senior fire official said.

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