Gutka factory owner, 22 workers remanded

Police yet to submit final challan in Mehran Town factory fire case


Our Correspondent September 22, 2021
PHOTO: EXPRESS

KARACHI:

A local court remanded on Tuesday the alleged owner and 22 workers of a gutka manufacturing factory.

The accused were produced before the West judicial magistrate at the Karachi City Court.

The investigation officer submitted that 23 suspects, including the factory owner, were rounded up in an information-based raid in Mawach Goth.

The IO added that 14 sacks containing wet betel nuts were confiscated from the factory besides other items such as gutka manufacturing chemicals.

The case against factory owner Abdul Moeed and workers Faqir Muhammad, Shabbir and others was lodged at Mawach Goth Police Station.

The magistrate sent the accused to jail on judicial remand. Challan awaited Meanwhile, accepting the public prosecutor's contention that a decision on the bail pleas of accused in the Mehran Town factory file cannot be reached before the final police challan is submitted, the East district and sessions judge adjourned the hearing till September 25.

The building owner, Tariq Faisal, factory owner, Ali Hassan Mehta, factory manager, Imran Zaidi, two supervisors, Zafar and Rehan, and the watchman, Syed Zarin, have been nominated in the FIR lodged under Section 322 read with 34 [pertaining to unintentional murder] of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) at the FIR lodged at the Korangi Industrial Police Station on behalf of the state.

The FIR notes that the building had a single entry and exit point. There was no emergency exit. When the fire broke out, workers trapped inside the factory ran up to the roof to save themselves but found the gate at the stairs locked.

Read More: 16 die in Karachi factory blaze

Witnesses said that a watchman outside was asked to open the gate but he ignored their pleas and was attempting to communicate with Mehta instead. With no way out, 16 workers suffocated to death in the deadly blaze.

The father of one of the young victims also died of a heart attack after seeing his son's body at the hospital, bringing the death toll to 17. Faisal, Mehta and Zaidi were arrested earlier this month as they attempted to flee the court premises after being denied bail.

The watchman Zarin has also been arrested. According to the police, the factory was not registered with any government department. Earlier, in its written order denying interim bail to the accused, the East district and sessions court also held the relevant government departments responsible for the blaze along with the factory owners.

The court noted that no official from the labour department or any other government department inspected the factory, which was operational on a residential plot.

The verdict noted that the industrial unit had no fire safety arrangements and that the single entry and exit point was also barred.

It further noted that the fire tenders arrived late with insufficient water to douse the blaze and the civil defence personnel were untrained. It added that the owners have produced letters of correspondence with the relevant departments but they are of no use after such an incident has already occurred.

Fake CNICs scam Separately, the East judicial magistrate sent National Database and Registration Authority deputy director Gauri Shankar to jail on judicial remand.

The Federal Investigation Agency produced Shankar, who was arrested on charges of issuing fake computerised national identity cards (CNICs), before the magistrate.

According to the FIA official, raids are being carried out to arrest coaccused Yasir Zeb. According to the FIA, Yasir, an assistant director at NADRA had demanded a bribe of Rs1 million from Shankar to help him evade arrest.

Yasir had received Rs650,000 in cash and an amount of Rs250,000 was deposited into his account to keep his mouth shut and facilitate the accused in the scam, the FIA official said, adding that efforts to arrest Yasir were underway.

Six cases of fake CNICs have been registered thus far and 18 suspects have been arrested, including senior NADRA officers, foreign nationals and agents. The magistrate remanded Shankar and directed the FIA to submit the challan at the next hearing.

Attack on court bailiff Hearing another case pertaining to the torture of a court bailiff within the remits of Korangi Industrial Area Police Station, the East judicial magistrate sent four accused on judicial remand.

As many as nine persons have been nominated in the FIR lodged over the physical violence against the court bailiff, who was injured in the attack.

The arrested accused were produced before the court under strict security. The court sent the accused to jail and sought a challan from the police at the next hearing.

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