The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Murder shadow on realtor

In an interim order passed on Thursday, the high court said that realtor Pradip Kundalia could be tried for murder as he had promoted a building that had collapsed, killing 11 persons.

The trial court had earlier ruled that Kundalia could not be tried for murder as the collapse of the building on Dr Rajendra Road in 1989 was a “mere accident”. However, Justice Moloy Bose ordered a stay on the lower court’s order, on the basis of a plea by the state government to enable the police to slap murder charges against Kundalia.

But as there was no lawyer present in the court to represent the realtor, the judge directed the government to serve a fresh notice on him and fixed September 5 for a final hearing of the case.

There are two similar cases pending in the trial court: Shivalik Apartments, also in the Bhowanipore area, and promoted by Arun Dutta, had collapsed in 1995, while a portion of the Bangur housing complex, promoted by the Bangurs, had collapsed in 1990. In both cases, a number of people had died.

On the basis of a report prepared by an inquiry committee set up by the government, which said construction material of poor quality had been used by Kundalia while constructing the Rajendra Road property, the police had said that he was liable for the death of 11 persons. A criminal case had been lodged against him and the police had wanted to submit a murder chargesheet against him.

But Kundalia moved court stating that he was not directly involved with the deaths of the persons and that the police had no right to frame murder charges against him.

The fourth additional judge of Alipore court, in its order on June 11, 2002, observed that a promoter could not be prosecuted for murder if a building he had constructed had collapsed. The order said: “This was a mere accident and there were no conspiracy on the part of the promoter.” The government lawyers said that if it was proved that the promoter had used poor quality construction material, he should be prosecuted for murder.

Shortly after the trial court’s order, the state home department had challenged the verdict and advocate-general Balai Roy had moved a review petition on behalf of the government.

After the high court’s interim order, Kundalia said on Thursday that the state government had not served him with a notice to be present in court and the judge’s observation was ex-parte. “All this was done without informing me and as far as I can understand, there has been no interim order. What is important is the final order that the court gives on September 5.”

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