A single bench of the Bombay High Court granted interim protection from arrest to Jannat Shikalgar, the owner of the land where the fire broke out at a candle manufacturing factory on December 8, 2023.
The fire that claimed 14 lives
The fire at the sparkling candles manufacturing factory in Talawade, Pune district, on December 8, 2023, was one of the worst industrial accidents in Maharashtra’s history. The blaze erupted after a blast at the factory premises and engulfed several buildings and vehicles in flames. The fire brigade and police rushed to the spot and managed to control the fire after several hours. However, by then, 14 people had lost their lives and several others were injured.
The victims included workers from different states who had come to work at the factory. The factory was owned by Rajesh Shetty, who was also injured in the blast. He was admitted to a hospital with severe burns and shock. The police have registered a case of culpable homicide not amounting to murder against Shetty under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Explosives Act.
The landowner’s plea for bail
Shetty is not the only accused in this case. Jannat Shikalgar, who is his wife and also owns a piece of land adjacent to the factory, has also been charged by the Dehu Road police for negligent conduct with respect to fire or combustible material and explosive substance and causing hurt. She has been accused of failing to take any preventive measures or ensure safety standards at her land.
Shikalgar has filed a plea seeking pre-arrest bail in this case through her advocate Ali Kaashif Khan Deshmukh. In her plea, she has claimed that she had given her land on lease basis to Shetty for three years from June 2023 and that he was responsible for obtaining all necessary licenses and permits for running his business. She has also alleged that she suffers from paralysis and hence cannot be subjected to custodial interrogation.
The court’s interim order
A single bench of Justice Sarang Kotwal on Tuesday granted interim protection from arrest to Shikalgar till February 6 and sought the prosecution’s response to her plea. The court observed that there were prima facies grounds to believe that Shikalgar was involved in criminal conspiracy with Shetty or had aided him in committing offences under various sections of IPC and Explosives Act.
The court also noted that there were serious allegations against Shikalgar regarding her negligence towards safety measures at her land and that she could be arrested if she failed to cooperate with the investigation. However, considering her health condition and age, the court decided to grant her bail on humanitarian grounds.
The court adjourned further hearing of this matter till February 6 after giving time to both parties.