Baldia factory fire verdict deferred till September 22

The verdict was reserved on September 2 and was expected to be announced today


Our Correspondent September 17, 2020
The garment factory in Baldia Town after a horrific fire that claimed around 260 lives in 2012. PHOTO: EXPRESS

KARACHI:

An anti-terrorism court (ATC) postponed on Thursday the announcement of the reserved verdict in the Baldia factory fire case till September 22.

Accused Rauf Siddiqui, Rehman Bhola, Zubair Charya and others were presented before the court amid strict security arrangements.

The verdict was expected to be announced today after ATC-7 had reserved it on September 2, following the completion of final arguments by the parties.

The judge had noted that the verdict would be announced on September 17.

During Thursday’s hearing, the court inquired how many bodies had been autopsied, at which the investigation officer disclosed that 259 bodies had been autopsied.

The judge further asked whether the victims and their families had been compensated, in line with the high court’s orders. Advocate Amir Naqvi replied that compensation had been paid by the factory owners and NGOs on the Sindh High Court’s (SHC) orders, adding that the ATC could compensate the victims with the fines paid by the accused.

It was also inquired whether the court could impose a fine on the accused for the sake of the victims’ families. Lawyers stated that the amount given to the heirs on the SHC’s orders was for compensation, not Diyat, while the compensation was paid by the insurance company and the government. They added that the ATC could impose fines on the accused if it so desired.

According to the Rangers prosecutor, compensation had been given by the judicial commission on the basis of humanitarian sympathy, but the ATC was not bound to implement the commission’s report.

The court adjourned the case until September 22.

The accused, including the erstwhile Muttahida Qaumi Movement leader Rauf Siddiqui, had been indicted in February 2017, with the trial continuing for three years and seven months. At least 400 witnesses have recorded their statements against the accused, while the names of 768 witnesses were included in the case.

As many as 259 people were burnt to death in the blaze that erupted in a garment factory in Baldia Town on September 11, 2012. According to the police, the factory was set on fire for the non-payment of extortion.

In a separate case, the ATC had earlier sentenced one of the Baldia factory fire accused, Jamaluddin, to seven years of imprisonment in a case pertaining to possession of explosives.

Announcing the verdict, the court had stated that Jamaluddin had failed to prove the legality of his involvement in the supply and sale of explosives, pointing out that the licence he had presented had been declared fake by the relevant assistant commissioner.

According to Inspector Syed Muhammad Sarfaraz, Jamaluddin had been arrested in Kharadar by Counter-Terrorism Department officials. A large amount of chemicals used for manufacturing explosives were recovered from a godown in Korangi on his information.

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