The owners of a garment factory, where over 250 people were killed in Pakistan’s worst industrial fire last year, have been released on bail, and the police have recommended dropping the key charges of murder against them.
The Sindh High Court (SHC) heard on Monday a request seeking the release of the accused men in the Baldia factory fire case – owners and brothers, Shahid Abdul Aziz Bhaila and Arshad Abdul Aziz Bhaila, factory manager Mohammad Mansoor and watchman Arshad Mehmood.
Arshad and Shahid will be released on bail for one million rupees each and a personal recognisance bond whose amount has to be agreed on by the trial court, the court stated. Mansoor and Mehmood have also been awarded bail for Rs200,000 each.
As many 259 workers were burnt alive when Ali Enterprises located in Baldia Town caught fire on September 11, 2012.
A case was registered against factory owner Abdul Aziz Bhaila, his sons Shahid and Arshad, their employees Mohammad Mansoor and Arshad Mehmood under Sections 302 (premeditated murder), 322 (manslaughter), 435 (mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to cause damage), 436 (mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy a house), 337 (Shajjah), and 34 (common intent) of the Pakistan Penal Code at the Site-B police station.
The Bhaila brothers had approached the Sindh High Court after their bails were dismissed by the Additional District Judge West on October 6, 2012.
The police investigating the case have recommended removing the murder charge. However, the court has yet to decide the matter.
The prosecution had affixed responsibility for the deaths on the owners of the factory, alleging that they had failed to adopt and enforce safety measures at the three-storey building, which had no emergency exits and had iron grilles on the windows.
But defence lawyer Amir Raza Naqvi contended that the allegations did not fall under Section 302 for pre-meditated murder.
He pointed out that the last charge sheet filed by the investigating officer before the trial court was for offences under Sections 322, 337 and 34 of the Pakistan Penal Code.
Investigation officer Sub-Inspector Jahanzeb stated before the judge that he had thoroughly investigated the matter and was of the opinion that the case falls under Sections 322, 337 and 34 PPC; therefore, he had “no objection, if the applicants were released on bail”.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 12th, 2013.